CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
Numbness is usually caused by damage, irritation or compression of several nerves or a single branch of a nerve, most often situated in the periphery of your body. Diseases affecting the peripheral nerves, such as diabetes, also can cause numbness. Rarely, numbness can be caused by problems in your brain or spinal cord.
Fortunately, numbness by itself is only rarely associated with potentially life-threatening disorders, such as strokes or tumors.
Your doctor will need detailed information about your symptoms to diagnose the cause of your numbness. A variety of tests may be needed to confirm the cause before appropriate treatment can begin.
- Acoustic neuroma
- Brachial plexus injury
- Brain aneurysm
- Brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation)
- Brain tumor
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Fabry's disease
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Herniated disk
- Lyme disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system
- Peripheral nerve compression (ulnar or peroneal nerves)
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Raynaud's disease
- Side effects of chemotherapy or anti-HIV drugs
- Sjogren's syndrome
- Spinal cord injury
- Spinal tumor
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2013: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-08373-7..00002-9&isbn=978-0-323-08373-7&about=true&uniqId=343863096-23. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Stroke: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/detail_stroke.htm. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Rosenfeld J, et al. Numbness: A practical guide for family physicians. American Academy of Neurology. http://www.aan.com/familypractice/pdf/FINAL%20NUMBNESS%203.pdf. Accessed Feb. 2, 2013.
- Raynaud's disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/raynaud/ray_all.html. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Numbness. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/symptoms/numbness/index.aspx. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Neuropathy (nerve damage). American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/neuropathy/. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Stabler SP. Vitamin B12 deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine. 2013;368:149.
- Vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma) and neurofibromatosis. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/acoustic_neuroma.asp. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.