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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Numbness


Alternate Names : Loss of Sensation

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Numbness is a term used to describe a lack of ability to feel touch, temperature, or pain.

What is going on in the body?

Different people mean different things when they use the word numb. As related to a physical complaint, most people use the term to describe a lack of ability to feel touch or pain on the surface of their bodies. In most cases, numbness is related to nerve damage.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many conditions that can cause numbness, including:

  • diabetes mellitus, a condition in which the level of sugar in the blood is too high. This slowly damages nerves over time. Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage from diabetes, is one of the most common causes of numbness.
  • toxins and drugs, such as alcohol, arsenic, and certain chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer
  • injury or trauma to an area, including previous surgery
  • carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause numbness in the hand from pressure on a nerve
  • vitamin deficiencies, such as vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and thiamine
  • brain damage, such as from a stroke or brain tumor
  • cancer, especially lung cancer and breast cancer in the later stages, and blood cancers, such as multiple myeloma or lymphoma
  • infections, such as HIV, Lyme disease, and herpes zoster
  • hormone imbalances, such as low thyroid hormone levels called hypothyroidism, or high levels of growth hormone, sometimes called acromegaly
  • severe liver disease, such as cirrhosis
  • severe kidney disease, such as chronic renal failure
  • autoimmune disorders, conditions in which a person's immune system attacks his or her own body, such as multiple sclerosis or Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • anxiety, including a condition known as conversion disorder
  • inherited conditions, such as a rare condition called hereditary sensory neuropathy
  • Other causes are also possible. Sometimes, no cause can be found.


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    Numbness: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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