What It Really Means If Your Fingers Feel Numb

Experiencing numbness in your hands? It's not necessarily a reason to panic. While numbness can be totally harmless and go away on its own, it can also be the result of something more serious, so it's important to alert your doctor if it persists or you're experiencing other symptoms alongside it.

Chronic conditions are a common cause of numbness in the fingers. Diabetes, for example, can result in damaged nerves. According to the Mayo Clinic, high blood sugar can cause a condition called peripheral neuropathy, symptoms of which include finger numbness as well as cramps, muscle weakness, and poor balance. Multiple sclerosis (or M.S.), alcohol use disorder, and other conditions can also cause numbness in the fingers.

Numbness or tingling can also be caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. This syndrome occurs when the small area of your wrist known as the carpal tunnel becomes irritated. This can happen due to activities that strain the wrists (like working on a computer), but there are many other factors that can contribute as well. Carpal tunnel is usually treatable through lifestyle changes, wearing a wrist splint, or in more serious cases, medication or surgery.

Vitamin deficiencies (particularly B-12) are another cause of finger numbness. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a B-12 deficiency may lead to nerve damage, which can cause tingling and numbness in your hands and feet, as well as muscle weakness and loss of reflexes.

There can be more serious causes of finger numbness

Less commonly, numbness in the fingers can be due to serious conditions such as stroke or traumatic brain injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define a traumatic brain injury (or TBI) as "a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury." More mild cases often result in headache or temporary confusion, but weakness or numbness in the hands (as well as limbs), vomiting, and lack of coordination can indicate a serious injury.

According to Medical News Today, traumatic brain injuries that go untreated can lead to an increased risk of dementia and other neurological and neurodegenerative disorders.

Of course, this is the worst case scenario, and the reasons for finger numbness are largely treatable. But if you are experiencing persistent numbness or any other symptom of brain injury, it's important to seek medical attention immediately.