Numbness is most often caused by damage, irritation or compression of nerves. A single nerve branch, or several nerves, may be affected, as with a slipped disc in the back or carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, which can damage the longest, most sensitive nerve fibers (such as those going to your feet), can also cause numbness.

Usually, the affected nerves are located on the periphery of your body. Only rarely is numbness caused by problems in your brain or spinal cord. Numbness alone is only rarely associated with potentially life-threatening disorders, such as strokes or tumors.

Your doctor will need detailed information about your symptoms to diagnose the cause of your numbness. A variety of tests may be needed to confirm the cause before appropriate treatment can begin.

Causes of numbness:

  1. Acoustic neuroma
  2. Alcohol use disorder
  3. Amyloidosis (buildup of abnormal proteins in your organs)
  4. Brachial plexus injury
  5. Brain aneurysm (a bulge in an artery in your brain)
  6. Brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation) — an abnormal formation of brain blood vessels
  7. Brain tumor
  8. Carpal tunnel syndrome
  9. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (a group of hereditary disorders that affects the nerves in your arms and legs)
  10. Diabetes
  11. Fabry's disease
  12. Guillain-Barre syndrome
  13. Heavy metal exposure
  14. Herniated disk
  15. Leprosy
  16. Lyme disease
  17. Multiple sclerosis
  18. Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system
  19. Peripheral nerve compression (ulnar or peroneal nerves)
  20. Peripheral neuropathy
  21. Porphyria
  22. Raynaud's disease
  23. Shingles (herpes zoster infection)
  24. Side effects of chemotherapy or anti-HIV drugs
  25. Sjogren's syndrome
  26. Spinal cord injury
  27. Spinal cord tumor
  28. Stroke
  29. Syphilis
  30. Thoracic aortic aneurysm
  31. Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  32. Vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation)
  33. Vitamin B-12 deficiency

Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Jan. 11, 2018