Numbness in the right arm has many possible causes, including nerve damage or restrictions in blood flow.
Depending on the cause, a person with this symptom may also experience tingling or weakness.
In this article, we will discuss the potential causes of numbness in the right arm, their symptoms, and possible treatments.
Restricted blood flow
A lack of blood flowing through the right arm could cause numbness and tingling in the area. It may also cause swelling or discoloration.
There are many possible causes of restricted blood flow to the arms. For example, sleeping with the arm underneath the body puts pressure on the arm, preventing blood flow. In cases like these, the symptoms are temporary and will go away after removing the pressure.
Some medical conditions might also cause problems with blood circulation that can lead to numbness, such as:
- Atherosclerosis: This condition occurs when blood vessels narrow over time due to a build up of fat and cholesterol, causing reductions in blood flow. Atherosclerosis may require a combination of medications for blood pressure and lowering cholesterol.
- Vasculitis: Vasculitis is inflammation of the blood vessels, which increases the risk of clots and blockages.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels, meaning the blood has to find an alternative route. Managing diabetes through diet and using insulin may help prevent or reduce these symptoms.
Obesity, smoking, and a family history of these conditions may make it more likely that a person will develop them.
Nerves carry signals between the brain and the rest of the body. However, if a nerve becomes damaged or compressed, it may cause pain, tingling, or numbness in a specific area of the body.
It is possible to treat carpal tunnel syndrome by relieving pressure on the nerve. Sometimes, doctors do this by applying a splint. People can also apply ice and use over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Nerve damage can also occur due to an underlying health condition. There are many possible conditions that might lead to nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy, such as:
- physical injury
- vitamin deficiencies, such as B-12 deficiency
- autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
- kidney and liver conditions
- some infections, such as Lyme disease and HIV/AIDS
Between the bones of the spine, there are soft discs that provide a cushion for each vertebra. A herniated disc occurs when a disc protrudes from the spinal column. This might occur due to strain or injury.
A herniated disc can put pressure on nerves that run down the arms, leading to pain, numbness, or tingling.
Treatment for a herniated disc might include physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. In rare cases, a person might need surgery.
A heart attack occurs when blood cannot reach the heart due to a blockage. This can happen due to a build up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances.
The early signs of a heart attack include:
- discomfort at the center of the chest, lasting more than a few minutes
- pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- shortness of breath
Chest pain or angina is the most common heart attack symptom.
Females are more likely to experience multiple symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting.
If someone has the symptoms of a heart attack, they must call 911 immediately.
Treatment depends on the type of heart attack. In the short-term, doctors aim to restore blood flow to the heart. This may involve surgery, medications, or dual antiplatelet therapy.
The most recognizable symptoms of a stroke are:
- face drooping
- arm weakness
- slurred speech or difficulty talking
However, strokes can also cause:
- sudden numbness in the limbs, or on one side of the body
- vision problems
- trouble walking
- sudden, severe headache
If a person has the symptoms of a stroke, they should dial 911 for emergency help.
Treatments will depend on whether the stroke occurred due to a clot or a bleed. For clots, a doctor may use medications to thin the blood. In some cases, they may need to perform surgery to remove a clot.
Doctors will recommend following a healthful lifestyle to reduce the risk of another stroke. This includes eating healthily, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking.
Doctors may diagnose the cause of numbness in the arm with a physical examination, medical imaging, and if necessary, blood or urine tests.
A physical examination might involve certain movements or exercises to check for signs of nerve damage. Medical imaging, such as an MRI or CT scan, can show doctors if there is damage inside the body.
Blood and urine tests can help diagnose underlying conditions, including diabetes or autoimmune disease.
People with the symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, or blood clot should seek immediate treatment. Any of these conditions may cause lasting damage.
However, if the numbness is the result of a sleep position or pressure, then it may be temporary. Relieving any pressure on the arm may mean the numbness goes away.
If a person has numbness in the arm along with other symptoms, or the numbness lasts for longer than a couple of days, they must see a doctor.
There are many possible causes of numbness in the right arm. Some cases are temporary and often resolve on their own. In other cases, numbness may be a sign of an underlying condition or of nerve damage.
A doctor can diagnose the cause of numbness in the right arm and prescribe the best treatment. In rare cases, arm numbness can be a sign of a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke.