announcement

Help someone with useful health advice.

Numb Fingertips

Numb Fingertips

Tingling or numbness in the fingertips can be quite disconcerting to many of us. Although, numb fingertips can be a sign of underlying health condition, it may be caused by exposure to cold, or playing an instrument, etc.
Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Loss of sensation at the fingertips is termed as numb fingertips. Each one of us has experienced times of numbness, especially after exposure to cold. Usually, it is not something to be worried about, because the numbness goes away in a few minutes, as the exposure to cold is minimized. However, extremely low temperatures can actually cause serious injuries to fingers, which must be taken seriously.
Besides cold, there are various other factors conducing to numbness in the fingertips. It can be due to rigorous exercise, or due to an underlying medical condition. Depending on the underlying condition, a person may experience various other symptoms besides numbness, such as pain, stiffness, clumsiness, etc. The fingertips may become pale or even blue. Numbness is mainly caused by some pressure application on a nerve, or some kind of nerve damage, thus, can be an indicator of a health problem. This is why it needs to be looked into as soon as possible.
Causes of Numb Fingertips
Exercise
Often people experience numbness in their fingertips, soon after heavy exercises like endurance training or running. Exercises involve maximum use of the muscles in the legs, and during these activities, the body has a natural tendency to increase blood flow towards them. This decreases blood circulation temporarily in the hands and fingertips, to manage the excess demand of blood supply to the legs. This lack of sufficient blood supply to the fingertips causes numbness.
Frostbite
Frostbite mainly affects exposed areas of the body, such as fingertips, face, feet, etc. as a result of which numbness is experienced. This happens because when the body is exposed to extreme cold, blood vessels constrict to prevent heat loss, however, this also results in low blood supply to the exposed regions. Low blood supply will lead to numbness and tingling sensation. If the condition is not quickly reversed, by warming up, tissue damage can also occur. The finger affected by frostbite may turn bluish in color, and may also develop blisters.
Pinched Nerve
When excess pressure is applied on the nerves, by muscle tissues, bones, etc. the nerve fails to function properly, thereby resulting in pins and needles in the fingertips. Pinched nerve can occur due to various reasons, such as swelling in the bone canal due to injury, arthritis, herniated disc, etc. Carpal tunnel syndrome or cubital tunnel syndrome can also be a reason for a pinched nerve in the wrist. The best form of treatment for pinched nerve is rest! Rest will help prevent worsen the situation. Splints may be advised to provide total rest to the affected areas.
Vitamin B6 Overdose
Intake of large amounts of vitamin B6 supplements causes vitamin B6 toxicity. An overdose of this vitamin can result in numbness in the fingertips, hands, toes, and feet. The overdose causes damage to the sensory nerves, which in turn results in numbness. Besides numbness, one may also experience skin rashes, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort, etc. The damage can be permanent, if the overdose continues. Thus, it is important to discontinue the intake of these dietary supplements as soon as possible.
Diabetic Neuropathy
This condition is linked to diabetes mellitus (those with problems controlling their blood sugar), and about half of the people with diabetes mellitus face diabetic neuropathy. It affects the peripheral nerves of the body. Uncontrolled high sugar levels over a prolonged period of time, prevents adequate bloodflow to the nerves of the body, which results in nerve damage. However, the symptoms of this kind of nerve damage, appear only a decade or two after diagnosis of diabetes. The nerves in the extremities get damaged gradually. Although tingling and numbness sensation usually appears in the toes, it may also be experienced in the fingers. The only way to avoid nerve damage is by proper glucose control. Symptomatic treatment will be conducted to alleviate symptoms and problems associated with them.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
It mostly affects those who are into activities involving extensive use of hand and wrist. Activities like playing musical instruments such as a piano or a guitar, typing a keyboard for long hours, playing racket sports, etc. are seen to exert pressure on the carpal tunnel present in the wrist. The median nerve that provides sensation, passes through the narrow carpal tunnel (center of the wrist), and may get inflamed due to pressure. As a result, it cannot function normally and the fingers go numb. The middle fingers are mostly seen to get affected, and may worsen at night.
Raynaud's Disease
This is a rare disorder in which blood vessels present in the fingers, narrow down due to spasms, and restricts proper flow of blood to the fingertips, making them numb and pale. The affected area becomes white and then blue, and once the blood flow is restored to the region, the red color reappears. However, pain and tingling sensation accompanies the return of blood flow. A number of underlying health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, scleroderma, etc. are often found to be responsible for this kind of abnormality. Sometimes, repeated trauma from vibrating tools like jackhammer can lead to this disease.
Buerger's Disease
Although the exact cause of Buerger's disease is not known, smoking is considered to a major factor triggering this disease. In this rare disease, the blood vessels tend to swell up, and get blocked with blood clots. In the initial stages, it affects the hands, due to which fingertips become numb, but later on, its effect can be felt in other parts of the body as well. In the long run, it may lead to damage of the skin tissue and cause gangrene. If the person with this disease continues to smoke, he or she might have to even get the limbs amputated.
Peripheral Neuropathy
When the peripheral nerves of the nervous system fail to function properly, the condition is known as peripheral neuropathy. Although there are different causes of peripheral neuropathy, often the cause cannot be narrowed down. In this condition, one can feel pain and numbness in the hands, all the way to the fingertips. Small blisters may also be formed on the hands and feet. Muscle weakness, indigestion, dizziness, etc. are other symptoms associated with this condition.
Other Causes
Besides the above-mentioned causes, numbness in fingertips is also a symptom of a host of diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, leprosy, stroke, panic attack, nutritional deficiency, injury, lupus, pernicious anemia, Haim-Munk syndrome, and white finger disease.
Numb Fingertip Treatment
In most cases, it is advised to restrict the movement of the affected hand. For this reason, use of splint is highly recommended.
Application of ice pack is helpful as it increases blood circulation in the area. Massaging enhances the supply of oxygen to the tips and often provides a lot of relief.
When there is an underlying disease that triggers this condition, then it should be given proper treatment so that it is alleviated.
In carpal tunnel syndrome, the accompanying pain can be reduced with the help of anti-inflammatory medicines or corticosteroid injections.
If resting, splinting, and medicines do not bring any relief, then surgery is conducted to release the pressure from the median nerve.
For Raynaud's disease, doctors prescribe suitable medicines that helps in relaxation of the blood vessels which in turn increase blood flow through them.
In more severe cases, surgical option is availed where the sympathetic nerve of the hand that controls constriction of blood vessel is severed.
There is no treatment for Buerger's disease as such. The patient must stop using tobacco in any form to avoid further aggravation of the problem.
Doctor may also prescribe some medicines for dilation of blood vessels and dissolution of blood clots.
Those who get numbness due to diabetes need to keep the blood sugar levels in control.
Nutritional deficiencies are corrected with change in diet and lifestyle.
People experiencing numbness in fingertips should maintain a healthy lifestyle encompassing a nutritious diet, regular exercises, and a good amount of rest and sleep. Exposure to extreme cold weather conditions should be strictly avoided. Consumption of tobacco and alcohol should be avoided. Doctors and health care professionals must be consulted for guidance and treatment.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.