Paraesthesia of the Fingers

Paresthesia is the medical term for the feeling of numbness, tingling or burning. Some people describe the sensation as pins and needles. When it is felt in the fingers, it may be accompanied by pain but this is not always the case. There are many factors that can lead to this sensation in the fingers. Some are fairly innocuous whilst other reasons are a bit more serious and require medical attention. Treatment is often just treating the underlying cause of the Paresthesia.

Why Do I Have Paresthesia of the Fingers?

The symptom can occur when there is an interrupted blood flow to the fingers or if there is nerve damage in the hand or fingers. Numbness of the fingers is seldom associated with a life-threatening condition. If it happens over a long period of time, it can indicate nerve damage or a developing neurological disease. All fingers are not always affected equally. In carpal tunnel syndrome, the digits affected are the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger, whereas ulnar nerve compression of the arm causes numbness of the small and ring fingers. Here are some of the common causes Paresthesia of the fingers

1. Poor Blood Circulation

This can be caused by conditions such as:

  • Frostbite, snake bites, burns, allergies
  • Peripheral artery disease where arteries are narrowed by fatty deposits which disrupt blood flow to the fingers
  • Raynaud's syndrome where small blood vessels spasm for unknown reasons and decrease the blood flow to the area
  • Buerger's disease involves the inflammation and thus narrowing of arteries of the extremities. This can be the result of excessive smoking.
  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis

2. Orthopedic Causes

  • Broken bones in the hand compressing a nerve or a cast that has been applied too tightly
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome that is caused by repetitive wrist and finger actions
  • Osteoporosis in which bones become brittle when there is loss of bone tissue due to hormonal imbalances or deficiencies in vitamin D or calcium
  • Nerve entrapment in which nerves are squashed by surrounding elements due to poor posture or awkward resting position like crossing your legs

3. Neurological Causes

  • Diabetic complications: distal nerves are more prone to compression when the person is a diabetic.
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Stroke
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Trauma to the brain or spine
  • Lupus-an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks its own cells
  • Lead, mercury or arsenic poisoning, pesticide toxicity
  • An underactive or overactive thyroid condition
  • Peripheral neuropathy: damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord
  • Some medications can exhibit Paresthesia of the fingers as adverse effect: examples can be drugs used to treat seizures, lower high cholesterol levels or treat hypertension.

4. Hereditary Conditions

Some structures in the hand are born to be too small, causing nerve involvement and entrapment, abnormalities of muscles or tendons, etc. These usually run in families.

5. Other Conditions

Paresthesia often occurs in association with obesity, pregnancy, menopause, certain infections, renal failure, etc.

Notes

If the tingling of the fingers is accompanied with sudden paralysis, slurred speech, limb weakness or sudden mental confusion, seek medical attention because you could be experiencing a stroke.

How to Relieve the Paresthesia of the Fingers

The main objective of treatment is to treat the cause of the numbness and tingling experienced. Treatment plans are tailored to the individual, taking into account factors like the source of the tingling, the age of the patient, other co-existing medical issues, etc.

  • Usually, normal circulation is achieved by exercises, massage therapy or stretching of the affected area. This manual manipulation of the region will decrease the pressure on the affected nerves. The numbness and tingling will resolve spontaneously.
  • If the unusual sensation is caused by a cast that has been fixed too tight (in the case of a fracture), the simple remedy will be to remove the tight cast and take the pressure off the nerves. This should be enough to resolve the Paresthesia in the fingers.
  • If the patient is a diabetic, there will be stricter measures taken to control the blood glucose.
  • In the instances where the Paresthesia is caused by serious health conditions, there may be surgery, lifestyle and/or dietary changes made, medications prescribed to address that condition. This can alleviate the Paresthesia.
  • If the numbness is caused by chemotherapy, then treatment will be to relieve the symptoms of Paresthesia since the chemotherapy cannot be stopped.
  • If the pain is mild, your medical practitioner may prescribe some painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen. More severe pain may be alleviated by opiate painkillers such as codeine. Sometimes doctors prescribe low doses of antidepressants like amitriptyline to relieve the pain. It is believed that this medicine changes the body's perception of the pain felt.
  • Vitamin B complex supplementation has been found to relieve symptoms of Paresthesia, particularly vitamin B12. Care should be taken when taking vitamins, as an overdose is possible. Paradoxically, an excess of B 6 in the body can produce Paresthesia of the fingers.
  • Alternative therapies like massage with aromatic oils and acupuncture can also provide relieve from the discomfort.
  • In many cases of Paresthesia, manipulation of the neck by a chiropractor, physiotherapist or doctor, is sufficient to minimize the pins and needles.
  • There are currently trials being conducted to check the viability of administering human nerve growth factor to help regenerate nerves that have been damaged.
 
 
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