Experiencing numb fingertips can feel jarring and bizarre, but typically it is not a cause for concern. Numb fingertips are actually relatively common.
The number one reason for numb fingertips is carpel tunnel syndrome, a mild nerve disorder of the wrist that affects as many as 10 million Americans. Experts do not necessarily know why some people get CTS and some do not, but repetitive motions are thought to be the primary factor. Typing, turning wrenches, or assembly work can all elevate your risk of developing CTS, and therefore increase your odds of experiencing numb fingertips.
When diagnosing CTS, doctors usually try to rule out other possible causes of hand and finger numbness like arthritis, nerve entrapment, and some of the other lesser-known conditions.
Another common cause of numbness is cervical radiculopathy, or a “pinched nerve.” This happens when a nerve is compressed or irritated.
Nerve issues can cause tingling, numbness, weakness, pain, or a “pins and needles” feeling. The tricky thing about pinched nerve is that they can originate in one place, but the mind attributes the symptom in another. For instance, a pinched nerve in the shoulder may cause tingling in the fingers. Luckily, pinched nerves typically resolve themselves after a few days or weeks, but sometimes specialized care (like a chiropractor) can help expedite the healing.
If your fingertips remain numb for long periods of time, it’s time to consult a physician
Another common (and much more serious) cause of numb fingertips is diabetes. Diabetic numbness usually affects the feet and toes more so than the hands and fingers, but not always. The reason for numbness in diabetics is poor circulation due to fluctuating blood sugar levels and erratic blood pressure.
And yet another common cause of numbness is Raynaud’s disease, also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon. Raynaud’s affects about 10% of the population, so you probably know someone with it.
Patients with Raynaud’s experience white, blue, or red extremities when exposed to cold or stress. It can also make them feel tingly, painful, and numb, which occurs because capillaries (small blood vessels) spasm, which reduces blood flow.
For most people, Raynaud’s is a mild inconvenience that can be managed with lifestyle changes intended to reduce stress and improve comfort. Quitting smoking also significantly helps stave of Raynaud’s. Some prescription medications also exist for the disease, like blood pressure meds and calcium channel blockers.
Although some of the causes of fingertip numbness will go away on their own, some do require a trip to the doctor. Your healthcare provider can evaluate your symptoms, diagnose the issue, and prescribe the best course of treatment. Not all ailments require doctor’s intervention, but anytime your body is obviously not functioning optimally for long periods of time, it’s time to see a specialist.