Left arm numbness, along with a tingling sensation, is one of the most common health complaints. While in some cases, this condition arises due to some minor health problems like panic attacks or dehydration, for others, it could be a symptom of something serious.
Hence it is very much necessary to consult a doctor at the earliest, to avoid possible complications. In order to fully understand the gravity of the situation, you must know more about the possible causes of these symptoms.
While numbness in the left arm can be caused by conditions like panic attacks, dehydration, fibromyalgia, hyperventilation, decompression sickness, menopause, low blood sugar, migraines, use of certain medication and deficiency of some B vitamins, there are possibilities of some serious causes that should not be dismissed. So you have to consult a doctor in order to rule out the possibility of the following major health problems, if you are experiencing left arm numbness.
A stroke can result in loss of brain functions due to an impaired blood supply to the brain. A stroke that occurs on one side of the brain affects the opposite side of the body. If you are feeling left arm numbness and tingling, it could be a symptom of stroke in the right side of the brain. In case of stroke, the affected person may also experience cognitive difficulties, vision problems and speech impairment. You have to seek immediate medical attention, within three to five hours of the onset of symptoms.
Mini Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
A mini stroke is a temporary loss of brain function, caused by blockage in blood supply to a particular area of that organ, for a short span. This condition does not last for more than 24 hours and the same applies to the symptoms (like difficulty talking, confusion, dizziness, loss of consciousness, loss of memory, etc.) too.
Though considered less fatal as compared to a stroke, a mini stroke may lead to a full-blown stroke later. Left arm numbness and tingling could be an indication of a transient ischemic attack, if it has occurred on the right side of the brain. This condition also requires immediate medical attention, to avoid future stroke attacks.
Another fatal medical condition that is associated with left arm numbness and tingling is heart attack. A heart attack may also produce additional symptoms like chest pain or discomfort, breathing trouble and nausea. Other symptoms include excessive sweating, cough, dizziness, palpitations and squeezing sensation in the chest. In this case, the chest pain may radiate to the arms (specially left arm), shoulder, back and even the abdomen. This is also a life-threatening condition and the affected person has to be taken to the doctor immediately.
It is the function of the peripheral nerves (that travel from the spinal column to the limbs, to provide mobility and sensation to the hands, arms and fingers. If such a nerve gets pinched, due to reasons like spinal arthritis, accidents or herniated discs, it stops functioning properly and fails to send the signals from the hands to the brain and vice versa. This results in numbness and tingling of the arms. If not treated properly and immediately, the nerve fiber may die.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This condition refers to an injury of the nerves in the wrist. If affected by carpal tunnel syndrome, you may experience numbness and tingling in the forearm or palm. In some cases, the thumb and the adjacent fingers may also develop numbness.
Apart from these symptoms, there will be severe pain and weakness too. This condition can be identified by pressing the base of the palm, where the median nerve is located. If there is severe pain, then it can be construed that you are having carpal tunnel syndrome. However, it has to be confirmed by consulting a medical practitioner and appropriate treatment should be taken.
Brachial Plexus Injury
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that transports signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arms and hands. Any injury to these nerves (called brachial plexus injury), may cause numbness or tingling in any part of the arm or hand. It may also cause pain and burning sensation in the arm. Some people may also experience lack of sensation in the affected arm.
The vertebrae in the spinal column are separated with cushion-like discs. These soft discs may slip out of their place, thereby causing herniation. Such a herniated disc can irritate the surrounding nerves and this may cause pain and numbness in those parts, where the nerves travel. In case of herniation of cervical discs (in the neck), pain, numbness and tingling may develop in the arms. The pain may radiate from the neck to the arm and palm. Weakness and muscle spasms may also develop in the arms.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
This is another condition that can cause symptoms like forearm numbness and tingling. This is caused when the nerves and blood vessels get compressed near the collarbone. Apart from numbness and tingling, thoracic outlet syndrome is characterized by pain in the inner forearm and fingers and weakness of hand muscles. As blood circulation is affected, the bluish discoloration of the arm may also be seen.
- Broken left shoulder, ganglion cysts
- Narrowed blood vessels in the left arm
- Diabetes or palsy (affect the growth of the peripheral nerves)
- Pressure on the nerves due to tumor or enlarged blood vessels
- Multiple sclerosis, Raynaud's phenomenon
- Vitamin B12 deficiency, Hypothyroidism
These are some of the causes for tingling and numbness in arms. These symptoms can be cured by treating the underlying cause. While some of the causes are life-threatening, others are comparatively minor. However, if you have this condition, consult a doctor to find out the exact cause and take proper treatment.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.