Numbness describes a loss of sensation or feeling in a part of your body. Numbness often is accompanied by other changes in sensation, such as a pins-and-needles feeling, burning or tingling. Numbness can occur along a single nerve, or it may occur on both sides of the body in a symmetrical pattern.

Numbness can have a variety of causes. Most are harmless, but some can be life-threatening.

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if your numbness:

  • Begins suddenly
  • Follows a recent head injury
  • Involves an entire arm or leg

Also seek emergency medical care if your numbness is accompanied by:

  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty talking
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden, severe headache

You are likely to have a CT scan or MRI if:

  • You've had a head injury
  • Your doctor suspects or needs to rule out a brain tumor or stroke

Schedule an office visit if your numbness:

  • Begins or worsens gradually
  • Affects both sides of the body
  • Comes and goes
  • Seems related to certain tasks or activities, particularly repetitive motions
  • Affects only a part of a limb, such as your toes or fingers
Apr. 20, 2013