Numbness and tingling typically occur due to problems with the nervous or circulatory systems. Numbness and tingling can be temporary, but persistent symptoms may result from a more severe condition, such as a stroke.

Numbness and tingling are types of temporary paresthesia. These sensations can occur after sitting or standing in a particular position or even wearing tight clothing for too long. This puts pressure on nerves and blood vessels, reducing sensation.

Long-term, severe, or disabling numbness and tingling is usually a sign of neurological conditions or nerve damage. The treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

Read on to learn more about what can cause numbness and tingling.

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Numerous conditions can cause numbness and tingling.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Numbness and tingling are some of the most common and early symptoms of MS.

MS often causes mild to severe numbness and tingling on the skin or certain parts of the body, including the:

  • arms and hands
  • legs and feet
  • face
  • body, often across the body in a band (sometimes known as an MS hug)

The numbness and tingling symptoms of MS are rarely disabling or permanent. However, severe numbness can make it difficult for a person to use the numb body part, which may interfere with everyday activities.

For example, numb hands can make holding things, typing, or self-care hard or impossible. If someone has numb feet or legs, walking and driving can be dangerous.

People with numbness and tingling in their face may also mistakenly bite their tongue or inner mouth.


People with diabetes may experience diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage. It can occur over time as the metabolic effects of diabetes in the bloodstream damage nerves.

One-third to one-half of people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy, which typically causes numbness and pain in the feet and legs, or less commonly, in the hands and arms.

Peripheral neuropathy

Aside from diabetes, other conditions can cause peripheral neuropathy.

Vitamin B12 deficiency, or pernicious anemia, can cause nerve damage due to low red blood cell levels and reduced oxygen circulation. This can cause peripheral neuropathy.

Excess alcohol consumption can cause peripheral neuropathy, affecting the hands and feet.

A range of medications can also cause peripheral neuropathy, such as:


Sudden numbness in the arm, leg, or face is an early symptom of stroke.It is most likely to affect one side of the body.

Other symptoms of stroke can include:

  • confusion
  • difficulty speaking or problems with understanding speech
  • difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
  • dizziness or loss of balance
  • walking difficulties
  • severe headache

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), or mini-strokes, can cause numbness and other symptoms of stroke. Symptoms usually only last a few minutes.

Autoimmune encephalitis

Autoimmune encephalitis refers to a group of conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the brain.

Inflammation can cause numbness or weakness in parts of the body or partial paralysis in the arms or legs.

O symptoms of autoimmune encephalitis can vary. Examples include:

  • memory problems
  • balance problems
  • involuntary movements
  • compulsive behaviors
  • insomnia
  • seizure

Transverse myelitis

Inflammation in the spinal cord can cause a band-like sensation across the torso, as well as weakness in the legs and sometimes arms.

It can also cause pain and bladder or bowel dysfunction.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)

Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and fingers. It occurs when the median nerve, a major nerve in the arm, becomes compressed in the space where it travels through the wrist.

Back and neck damage

Back and neck injuries can cause nerve damage or compression, resulting in numbness and tingling.

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium helps regulate many systems in the body, including proper nerve function. Severe magnesium deficiencies, or hypomagnesemia, can cause numbness and tingling.


Calcium is vital to proper nerve function and blood flow. Hypocalcemia, or calcium deficiency, can cause numbness and tingling in the fingers.

Panic attacks

Panic attacks, or sudden overwhelming periods of fear and anxiety without real danger, can cause a range of symptoms, including numbness or tingling in the hands.

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that affects blood circulation. It can cause fingers to appear white. It can also cause numbness and pain.


Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, happens when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. It can cause numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers as a result of CTS.

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:

  • tiredness
  • weight gain
  • sensitivity to the cold
  • constipation
  • slow movements
  • dry skin
  • muscle aches and cramps
  • brittle nails and hair


Migraine with aura can cause numbness or tingling. Migraine aura refers to symptoms a person might experience before migraine occurs.

Other aura symptoms can include:

  • vision changes
  • dizziness
  • speaking difficulties


Tumors can put pressure on parts of the spinal cord and brain, resulting in numbness and tingling. Tumors in the cerebral cortex (outer region of the brain) tend to cause numbness on one side of the body.

Tumors in and close to the cranial nerves tend to cause facial numbness and weakness. Tumors impacting the spinal cord can cause numbness, usually in both arms and legs.

Different conditions can cause numbness and tingling in different parts of the body.


Conditions that can cause tingling in the legs can include:

  • MS
  • diabetes
  • autoimmune encephalitis
  • transverse myelitis
  • tumor

Learn more about numbness in the legs and feet.


Conditions that can cause tingling and numbness in the arms include:

  • transverse myelitis
  • MS
  • autoimmune encephalitis

Learn more about arm numbness.

Hands and feet

Conditions that can cause tingling in the hands and feet can include:

  • MS
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • diabetes

Learn more about tingling in the hands and feet.

Hands and fingers

Conditions that can cause tingling in the hands and fingers can include:

  • MS
  • diabetes
  • CTS
  • hypocalcemia
  • panic attacks

Learn more about numbness in the hands.


Toothaches and infections can compress facial nerves, causing numbness in the face and mouth.

One side of the body

Conditions that are most likely to cause numbness and tingling on one side of the body include stroke and tumors. The numbness can affect either the right side or the left side of the body.

To diagnose the cause of numbness and tingling, a doctor will likely review a person’s medical history, perform a physical examination, and ask questions about symptoms.

They may then order laboratory tests, such as blood tests, to confirm or rule out potential causes.

In some cases, a doctor may request further testing, such as an MRI or other imaging tests. Electromyography and nerve conduction studies can help assess the extent and type of nerve damage, especially when neuropathy causes tingling.

Treatment for numbness and tingling depends on its cause. Treating the underlying condition may help to relieve numbness and tingling.

A person’s doctor can advise on a suitable treatment plan and help the individual monitor their symptoms.

In some cases, the doctor may also recommend medication to directly target nerve pain. Example include:

  • amitriptyline
  • duloxetine
  • pregabalin
  • gabapentin

The doctor can advise on what taking the medication involves and answer any questions.

The best way to prevent numbness and tingling depends on the cause.

If numbness and tingling are temporary due to pressure on the nerve, then changing posture or the way a person is sitting can help to relieve symptoms.

Taking steps to address an underlying cause of persistent numbness and tingling can also help.

A person should contact a doctor if numbness or tingling is persistent or occurs without an obvious cause, or if they accompany any of the following symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • vision problems
  • muscle weakness and cramps
  • bladder and bowel problems
  • pain
  • intense anxiety
  • back or neck pain
  • reduced appetite

People who experience certain symptoms with numbness and tingling may need emergency medical attention. These symptoms include:

Many conditions can cause numbness and tingling. Examples include MS, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, stroke, CTS, and more.

Usually, the severity, frequency, and location of symptoms depend on the cause. They can affect the legs, feet, hands, fingers, arms, or face. Symptoms may also affect just one side of the body.

Although some causes have no cure, many have symptoms that are temporary, painless, or respond to at-home care.

People with unexplained numbness and tingling should contact a doctor as early as possible. The outlook for most conditions associated with numbness and tingling improves with early treatment.