Numbness in the limbs

Numbness, or paresthesia, is a disorder of the sensitivity of body tissues that occurs as a result of damage to the peripheral nervous system. Against it sometimes helps:
It can be accompanied by various sensations: from tingling, goose bumps to a general decrease in the sensitivity of any part of the body, most often the limbs.
The patient feels any tactile effects, as if through a layer of cotton wool.


Depending on the duration and localization, several types of paresthesias are distinguished. Temporary, or transient, paresthesia may be due to a weakening of blood flow (ischemic). This type of numbness occurs with spasm or compression of the vessels of the limb. Permanent paresthesia is also possible when crossing or compressing nerve fibers during surgery, trauma, cancer and degenerative changes in the musculoskeletal system.

Reasons for the appearance

An example of transient paresthesias is sensitivity disturbance in hypertensive crisis. This condition is characterized by a sudden increase in blood pressure and is accompanied by symptoms such as a sharp headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, visual impairment, “flies” before the eyes, paresthesia of the extremities.
It should be noted that the clinical symptoms of a crisis can be observed even at low pressure values, the main role is played by the suddenness and the difference in the difference in systolic and diastolic pressure.
Raynaud’s syndrome – an episodic disturbance of blood circulation in the extremities due to a sharp spasm of peripheral vessels in response to cold exposure or emotional stress, quite often causes loss of their sensitivity. Fingers are most often affected, which, from exposure to cold, acquire an almost white or bluish-purple hue and lose sensitivity. After the cessation of the spasm (usually after 15-20 minutes), blood flow in the extremities is restored, as evidenced by the normalization of the color and sensitivity of the skin.

Tunneling, or compression syndromes, are among the most common causes of numbness in the extremities. Compression (compression) of a nerve fiber located in a narrow space between the bone and muscles of the limb occurs due to edema that occurs with injuries to the joints and ligaments.
The first symptoms of this condition are pain, sometimes a sensation of current flow (electric shock), numbness, weakness and impaired function, which subsequently lead to muscle atrophy and loss of motor ability of the limb.
Compression of the nerve roots (radiculopathy) due to herniated intervertebral discs, tumors are also accompanied by numbness of the limb. Depending on at what level of the spine the nerve is pinched, pain and numbness may occur in certain parts of the limb, impaired reflexes, muscle weakness, stiffness in the spine, pain in the projection of the affected root when coughing or sneezing.
With radiculopathies, the pain increases in the upright position of the body and decreases in the supine position.
Numbness of the extremities can be caused by polyneuropathies of various origins. Symmetrical limb involvement is a sign of polyneuropathy. Multiple peripheral nerve damage occurs due to a decrease in the supply of nerve fibers (metabolic polyneuropathy). Diabetic polyneuropathy is a typical example of peripheral nerve damage. It is characterized by slow progression and gradual development of movement and sensory disorders. Alcoholic polyneuropathy develops much faster.
Its characteristic symptoms include numbness and loss of sensation in the lower extremities, starting with the feet, and soreness of the calf muscles. In the future, these symptoms are joined by weakness and paresis (decreased muscle strength) of the limbs.
Paresthesia can occur with drug-induced polyneuropathy when taking certain drugs, with uremic polyneuropathy in patients with chronic renal failure, as well as with other diseases.
Paresthesia, a feeling of numbness and goosebumps are the main signs of a deficiency of vitamins of group B. In particular, with a lack of thiamine (B1), polyneuropathy develops, which is manifested by a sensation of “tingling with needles.”
Deficiency of cyanocobalamin (B12) leads to degenerative changes in the spinal cord, which are accompanied by a feeling of numbness, tingling in the limbs, impaired gait, memory loss and loss of tendon reflexes.
Similarly, with hypocalcemia (lack of calcium in the blood), paresthesias and convulsions are the leading clinical manifestations of the disease. Calcium deficiency can develop against the background of pancreatitis, sepsis, hormonal disorders (in particular, with hypoparathyroidism), blood loss during massive operations and injuries.

Demyelinating lesions that cause limb numbness include multiple sclerosis.
With this disease, demyelination (destruction of the myelin sheath) of nerve fibers occurs in various parts of the central nervous system, which significantly disrupts the conduction of impulses through neurons.
Sensory impairment is one of the earliest and most frequent symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The patient has a transient feeling of numbness, “creeping creeps” in various parts of the body, more often in the tips of the toes or hands. This violation of sensitivity is focal in nature.

Sensory disturbances in the limbs, numbness occur with polymyalgia rheumatica. It is an inflammatory disease of the musculoskeletal system that develops after the age of 50. Severe pain in the symmetrical muscles of the shoulders, hips, neck is combined with an acute inflammatory process. The pains are worse when moving and do not subside even at night. Muscle stiffness is characteristic both in the morning hours and after prolonged immobility. Muscle damage is combined with peripheral arthritis, more often on the one hand, which is accompanied by a slight violation of sensitivity and paresthesias.

Occupational hazards, exposure to ultrasound also lead to sensory and vascular disorders. People who are exposed to vibration for a long time develop an increased sensitivity of the hands to cold, periodically there is numbness of the fingers. The skin becomes cyanotic, marbled in color, cold and damp to the touch. Over time, dystrophic changes spread to nerve fibers, muscles, bones.

Diagnostics and examination

Diagnosis of a disease accompanied by numbness begins with interviewing the patient, which makes it possible to clarify the location and nature of the sensitivity disorder. To exclude the metabolic nature of the disease, blood tests (general clinical and biochemical), determination of the level of glycated hemoglobin, blood urea, liver enzymes), calcium, vitamin B12 and methylmalonic acid, C-reactive protein and general urinalysis are required.