Tingling in Hands: 12 Common Causes & What to Do

Some of the most common causes of tingling in the arms and hands are nerve compression, blood circulation issues, inflammation or alcohol abuse. Tingling can also be a sign of a serious condition, like diabetes, a stroke, multiple sclerosis or a heart attack. 

The arms and hands contain a significant number of nerve endings which allow us to perform delicate, controlled movements, feel objects and detect temperature changes. Because of all of these nerves, any small changes can affect them and cause tingling. 

In any case, if the tingling is very intense, lasts for days or if it associated with other symptoms (like excessive fatigue, chest pain or difficulty talking), you should see your doctor for assessment and appropriate treatment as necessary. 

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1. Poor circulation

Tingling in the hands and feet can be cause by circulation diseases that affect the arteries and veins. These types of illnesses can cause symptoms like pain and ulcers. In addition, feeling your hands and fingers tingling can also be a sign that sufficient blood is not reaching them.  

What to do: Treatment is completed depending on the type of circulation problem and on whether the blood vessels have physically been affected. It can include the use of compression stockings, medications (like aspirin), or even surgery. To determine the best treatment, you should be assessed be a vascular surgeon.  

2. Nerve compression

Nerves that innervate the arms come out of the medulla and pass through the spine until they reach the more peripheral parts of the hands and fingers. The nerves can be compressed at any point along this tract for many reasons, like tumors, infections, dilated blood vessels, spinal radiculopathy (which is when nerves are damaged within the vertebral column), a herniated disc, osteoarthritis or vertebral space stenosis. 

What to do: You should be a assessed by a neurologist or orthopedic surgeon. Treatment will depend on the cause of compression, and can include options like physiotherapy or even surgery. 

3. Migraines with aura 

In many people, there are certain symptoms that can appear before the onset of a migraine. These symptoms, known as an aura, can include tingling in the hands, arms, legs or mouth, vision changes, difficulty speaking or weakness in the extremities. Learn more about the symptoms associated with migraines and what can cause them.  

What to do: Treatment for migraines is usually recommended by a doctor or neurologist and can include the use of analgesic medications, anti-inflammatories or anti-migraine meds. Preventative measures to avoid future migraines may be necessary, like avoiding certain foods or smells and having restful sleep, for example Learn about other ways headaches can be treated. 

4. Stroke

Although this is a more rare situation, the first signs of a stroke are tingling in one arm or hand. Other common symptoms include a crooked mouth or face, weakness on one side of the body and difficulty speaking. 

What to do: If you suspect a stroke, you should dial 911 immediately or proceed straight to the emergency room. 

5. Carpal tunnel syndrome 

This illness the most common cause of tingling in the hands. It occurs when the median nerve, which innervates the palm, becomes compromised within the wrist. It causes tingling or numbness that worsens and night, and makes it difficult to hold small objects. You may also feel that your fingers are swollen. This condition is very common during pregnancy, and is one of the most common causes of tingling in the hands during pregnancy. 

What to do: Depending on the severity of the compression of the median nerve, you can try specific hand exercises to improve the symptoms. The only way to full cure this condition is by having nerve decompression surgery. 

6. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that causes the gradual breakdown of nerve fibers in the brain and the bone marrow. Some symptoms include loss of strength, excessive fatigue, lapses in memory and tingling in various parts of the body which can also feel like burning.

What to do: Treatment is completed with medications that can delay the development of the disease. Examples of such medications are interferon and mitoxantrone. You should be assessed by your doctor or a neurologist to diagnose this illness and initiate appropriate treatment. 

7. Synovial cyst

A synovial cyst can appear in any joints in the hands, like the wrist or gingers. It often causes a visible, fluid-filled lump under the skin that can compress the nerves and cause tingling and loss of strength in the hand. 

What to do: Apply cold compresses on the lump to decrease any swelling and relieve symptoms. In some cases, the fluid will need to be aspirated with a syringe or anti-inflammatories may need to be prescribed. You should see your doctor if the cyst does not improve within 1 week.

8. Vitamin deficiencies 

A deficiencity in certain vitamins (especially B12, B6, B1 or E) can cause nerve changes that result in tingling and sensitivity issues in many parts of the body. Other symptoms that may occur are irritability, fatigue, or psychiatric changes. 

What to do: These deficiencies can be treated through diet or with oral or injected  supplementation, which may be the case with a vitamin B12 deficiency. 

9. Heart attack

Tingling or numbness in the leg arm, or more rarely, in the right arm, can be a symptom of a a heart attack. Tingling can worsen with activity, and can be accompanied by other symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, general malaise or cold sweats. Learn about the other common symptoms of a heart attack.

What to do: If you suspect a heart attack, you should proceed immediately to the emergency room or dial 911. If a heart attack is confirmed, treatment should be initiated as quickly as possible to prevent irreversible damage to the heart. 

10. Uncontrolled diabetes

Sometimes, diabetes can be a difficult condition to diagnose, especially if you are not experiencing the classic symptoms associated with it, like frequent urination or excessive thirst. In cases where treatment is not started, or if it is not well-managed by the patient, blood sugars can become elevated. 

When sugar levels are very elevated for an extended time, nerve damage can occur throughout the body. Therefore, diabetics are prone to feeling tingling in the hands, arms, legs and feet. Learn about other causes of tingling in the legs and feet.

What to do: If you suspect diabetes, it is important to see your doctor or an endocrinologist to inisitate treatment with insulin, as diet changes alone may not be sufficient to treat the tingling.  

11. Hypothyroidism 

When hypothyroidism is not properly treated, it can cause damage to the nerves that carry information between the head and the rest of the body. Other symptoms like hair loss, weight gain or constantly feeling cold can also occur in addition to tingling in various parts of the body. Learn more about the symptoms and causes of hypothyroidism. 

What to do: If you already know you have a thyroid problem, or if you suspect one, you should see your doctor or endocrinologist to initiate treatment with medications that control the thyroid. Learn about the TSH blood test that is ordered to diagnose thyroid issues. 

12. Tennis elbow 

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is an inflammation of the muscles and tendons within the elbow. It occurs due to repetitive use of the joint, which can happen with tennis players or people who work in line factories.

With this condition, it is common to experience intense elbow pain, weakness in the entire arm and tingling that usually occurs due to ulnar nerve compression in swollen arms. 

What to do: Applying cold compresses to the elbows can help to alleviate the symptoms. Sessions of physiotherapy may be necessary, as well as anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen, in more serious cases. You should be assessed by your doctor or orthopedic surgeon.

How the right cause is identifies

The doctor will assess your presenting symptoms and ask about when they started and how intense they are. Knowing about your work and lifestyle habits may help the doctor to determine what is causing this discomfort. Blood tests can be ordered to rule out R Recommended treatment 

Treatment should be directed toward the underlying cause and there options can vary. The doctor can recommend just exercises to improve blood circulation and maintenance of your ideal weight. You can calculate your ideal weight here, using our calculator

Physiotherapy sessions may be useful in cases of musculoskeletal or neuromotor changes. Medications can be used treat infections or autoimmune diseases. Alcohol should be avoided in order to improve any numbness.