Causes Behind Numb Fingertips

Almost everyone experiences numb fingertips on occasion. This is usually a sensation that occurs when the hands are exposed to cold temperatures. But the cold isn’t the only thing that can cause a change in one’s fingers! Many conditions which can cause a loss of feeling in the fingers develop of a long period of time, and some can be quite serious. We are going to talk about a few conditions that can cause numb fingertips and how these conditions may be cured or treated.

Raynaud’s Disease

Although doctors are not exactly sure what causes Raynaud’s disease, they do know that conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis can lead to the development of Raynaud’s disease, as can the use of certain drugs and exposure to chemicals. This particular disease is characterized by the restriction of blood flow that not only affects the fingers, but also the toes and sometimes one’s ears. The symptoms of this disease include pain in the fingertips, discoloration, and loss of sensation in the affected areas. One of the major triggers of this disease is cool temperatures. This is not to be confused with frostbite, as they are truly two different conditions.

The treatment for this disorder depends on the cause behind it. The obvious first step would be to avoid the trigger, such as cold temperature or the use of vibrating machinery. Tobacco, caffeine, and other stimulants are other potential triggers of this disease. Advanced cases of Raynaud’s disease may require treatment using a prescription medication designed to dilate the blood vessels to increase blood flow. In very severe cases, one’s doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to sever the nerves which signal the blood vessels in the fingertips to constrict.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is probably one of the most common causes of numb fingertips. The carpal tunnel is a section located at the base of the wrist. This section creates a “tunnel” over nine tendons as well as a nerve called the median nerve. When the median nerve becomes compressed, one is diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. There are many symptoms associated with this condition, the severity of which depends upon how extreme one’s condition is. Numbness and tingling, primarily experienced in the middle fingers, are common, as is pain in the wrists and hands. A more serious symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is the loss of gripping strength in the hands, similar to what one might experience with arthritis.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop from relatively unknown causes, but what we do know is that it can be caused by repetitive stress to the wrist area. Soldiers often experienced the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome after World War II due to repetitive strain to the wrist. People who work with computers are also more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome due to the constant positioning of the wrist on a mouse or keyboard. Treating this condition can be difficult, especially if the cause is work-related and cannot be avoided. Stretching exercises, wrist splints or braces, and steroid injections can temporarily relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, but unless the main causes is being avoided, the symptoms are bound to return. There are a few surgical procedures which can be performed to relieve the compression of the median nerve, however surgeons seem more selective about when they perform these risky procedures.

Buerger’s Disease

Buerger’s disease is a condition in which the arteries and veins in the hands experience recurring bouts of inflammation. This condition is caused by using tobacco products of any type (smokeless, cigarettes, pipes, cigars, etc.). The most noticeable symptom of this disease is pain in the hands, although numbness in the fingertips is also experienced. Unfortunately, this disease can progress to the point where gangrene develops in the fingers, in which case amputation is the only choice. Progression is much likely to occur with this less common disease because it often mimics other, more common, conditions. Doctors are more likely to test for the common conditions and upon ruling them out may test for Buerger’s disease. There is no known treatment to be effective against this disease.

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