Numbness in Both Hands Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Numbness and tingling in both hands can most commonly be caused by nerve damage, a condition of the tendons located in the wrist, or diabetic neuropathy. Carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, and a vitamin deficiency can also cause numb hands. Read below for more information and how to treat hand numbness.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 10 Possible Numbness In Both Hands Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. Real-Life Stories
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. Related Articles
  9. References

Numbness In Both Hands Symptoms

Hand numbness is a loss of sensation. Many people have experienced this sensation when falling asleep for too long on a crooked arm or after activities such as prolonged typing.

Common accompanying symptoms of numbness in both hands

Numbness in both hands is often associated with symptoms such as:

  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Pins-and-needles sensation
  • Changes in sensitivity to touch

However, usually the numbness is unilateral and only affects one hand.

Timing and onset of symptoms of numbness in both hands

If you are experiencing numbness in both hands, take note of the timing and pattern of your symptoms:

  • Timing: Does the numbness and any associated symptoms occur in both hands at the same time? Or at different times?
  • Severity: Is the numbness and any associated symptoms more severe in one hand versus the other? Or about the same?

Numbness affecting both hands should always be promptly followed-up by your physician, especially if you find the numbness occurring in both hands with the same frequency and severity.

Numbness In Both Hands Causes

Hand numbness is the result of injury, compression or irritation of a nerve or a branch of one of the nerves in your arm or wrist [1]. The hand is composed of many nerves and small blood vessels that begin higher up in the shoulder and arm and branch off in various directions to give blood flow and sensation throughout the hand.

Causes that can affect these components in both hands at the same time are limited and should always be followed up by a doctor.

Systemic causes

Systemic causes of numbness in both hands may be related to the following:

  • Metabolic: Dysfunction in the processes that your body uses day-to-day, for example glucose and insulin dysregulation in diabetes, can damage the peripheral nerves causing numbness in the hands and other parts of the body (peripheral neuropathy) [2].
  • Neurologic: Syringomyelia is a rare disorder in which a fluid-filled cyst forms within the spinal cord [3]. This cyst can grow outward, compressing and damaging the nerves of the spinal cord and resulting in pain, weakness, and numbness. Often the loss of sensation and numbness is described as being in a "cape" (over the tops of the shoulders and into the hands and arms).

Inflammatory causes

Inflammatory causes of numbness in both hands may include the following.

  • Autoimmune: Many inflammatory diseases that result in the body attacking itself can also affect the nerves and cause injury that results in numbness. Conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus are examples of such autoimmune diseases [4]. These conditions often cause unilateral symptoms but can sometimes result in bilateral symptoms.
  • Vascular: Raynaud's is a condition in which the arteries in the fingers narrow in response to triggers (often cold weather related). This narrowing prevents blood from circulating properly to the fingers which can result in bilateral numbness and loss of sensation. The fingers often feel extremely cold and can change colors from white to blue to red [5].

Environmental causes

Environmental causes of numbness in both hands may be related to lifestyle habits or certain exposures.

  • Toxins: Toxins that cause injury to the nerves include heavy metals such as lead and substances such as alcohol. Too much exposure to either can cause nerve damage that leads to bilateral numbness.
  • Vitamin imbalance: There are certain vitamins that are essential to healthy nerve function such as vitamins E and B12. Deficiencies in these vitamins over time can lead to nerve damage and injury. Conversely, exposure to too much Vitamin B6 can cause bilateral hand numbness.
  • Stress: For some people, stressful or frightening situations can cause hyperventilation — rapid, shallow breathing in excess of what the body requires. Hyperventilation can result in symptoms of tingling in the hands and other parts of the body. The mechanism behind these symptoms is not clearly understood.

10 Possible Numbness In Both Hands Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced numbness in both hands. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by compression of the mediannerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel. Causes include overuse of the wrist and hand, especially highly repetitive activities such as typing or wo...

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De quervain's tenosynovitis

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, you will feel pain upon turning your wrist, grasping anything, or making a fist.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: hand numbness, thumb pain, hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand

Symptoms that always occur with de quervain's tenosynovitis: thumb pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by longstanding or poorly controlled diabetes mellitus (DM). Other risk factors for developing diabetic neuropathy include obesity, smoking, cardiovascular disease, and abnormal lipid levels.

Diabetic neuropathy can present as a number ...

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Pinched nerve in the neck

A pinched nerve in the neck is also called cervical radiculopathy. It means that a nerve in the neck, at a point where it branches off from the spinal cord, is being compressed by the surrounding bones, muscles, or other tissues.

It can be caused by a traumatic injury, such as from sports or an automobile accident, especially if the injury results in a herniated disk. It may also arise from the normal wear and tear of aging.

Symptoms include sharp, burning pain with numbness and tingling from the neck to the shoulder, as well as weakness and numbness into the arm and hand.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and simple neurological tests to check the reflexes. Imaging such as x-ray, CT scan, or MRI may be done, as well as electromyography to measure nerve impulses in the muscles.

A pinched nerve in the neck often improves with simply a few days or weeks of rest. Physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroid injections into the spine can all be very helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain that radiates down arm, pain in the back of the neck, severe shoulder pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chemotherapy-induced nerve damage

Chemotherapy has many effects on the body. Some types of chemotherapy can cause irritation of the nerves in ones hands and feet, resulting in symptoms like pain, numbness or tingling.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: muscle aches, distal numbness, pain in both hands, pain in both feet, numbness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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Panic or anxiety attack(s)

Panic or anxiety attacks are sudden feelings of intense fear or stress without true danger. Symptoms usually peak and then decrease within minutes. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart. A panic attack can be a very scary experience and should be taken seriously.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms:

Symptoms that always occur with panic or anxiety attack(s): anxiety or anxiety/panic attacks

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chronic idiopathic peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the feeling of numbness, tingling, and pins-and-needles sensation in the feet. Idiopathic means the cause is not known, and chronic means the condition is ongoing without getting better or worse.

The condition is most often found in people over age 60. Idiopathic neuropathy has no known cause.

Symptoms include uncomfortable numbness and tingling in the feet; difficulty standing or walking due to pain and lack of normal sensitivity; and weakness and cramping in the muscles of the feet and ankles.

Peripheral neuropathy can greatly interfere with quality of life, so a medical provider should be seen in order to treat the symptoms and reduce the discomfort.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests to rule out other conditions; and neurologic and muscle studies such as electromyography.

Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers; prescription pain relievers to manage more severe pain; physical therapy and safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation in the feet; and therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Folate (vitamin) deficiency

Folate is also called folic acid or vitamin B9. It is needed to create red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. A shortage of folate leads to a shortage of healthy red blood cells, which is also called anemia.

Folate deficiency can be caused by poor diet; alcohol use; some medications; diseases of the large intestine; and pregnancy, since the growing baby requires folate in larger amounts.

Symptoms include severe fatigue; loss of appetite; diarrhea; paleness; sore tongue; and irritability. The same symptoms can appear in other conditions, especially blood disorders.

Folate deficiency is also a cause of abnormal brain and spine development in a fetus. For these reasons, it is very important to see a medical provider if these symptoms occur.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, blood tests, and sometimes digestive tract studies.

Treatment involves immediate supplementation of folate with injections, followed by folate and other vitamin and mineral tablets; improvement in diet; and treating any underlying digestive or blood disorder.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, irritability, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea

Symptoms that never occur with folate (vitamin) deficiency: abdominal swelling

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Copper deficiency

Copper is a natural element necessary to many of the body's daily processes. Although found in the body in small amounts, copper is crucial to the proper functioning of the nervous, musculoskeletal, and immune systems, as well as the creation of red blood cells. A deficiency, or an in...

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Hyperventilation syndrome

Hyperventilation syndrome is a type of anxiety or panic attack, where the primary symptom is fast, shallow breathing that leads to a drop in carbon dioxide levels in the blood. This drops changes the body chemistry and causes the discomfort.

Any sort of fear or excitement that might provoke an anxiety attack can bring on hyperventilation syndrome.

Symptoms are worse in some patients than in others, but include anxiety; lightheadedness; pain and constriction in the chest; numbness and tingling of the extremities; and a feeling of suffocation.

It is important to seek treatment for hyperventilation syndrome, because the symptoms can be debilitating and interfere with quality of life.

Diagnosis is made through detailed patient history, as well as a complete physical examination and lab tests to rule out any other conditions.

Treatment involves showing that patient that, during an anxiety attack, simply breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes will ease the symptoms and allow recovery. Psychological counseling, with an emphasis on managing stress, is also helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: anxiety, shortness of breath, dizziness, racing heart beat, chest pain

Symptoms that always occur with hyperventilation syndrome: rapid, deep breaths

Symptoms that never occur with hyperventilation syndrome: shortness of breath after a few stairs

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Numbness In Both Hands Treatments and Relief

Bilateral hand numbness is often not resolved at home with simple lifestyle changes or preventive strategies.

At-home treatments for numbness in both hands

Attempting the following strategies below may be able to help your current condition.

  • Eating a diet rich in essential vitamins to keep the nerves healthy: Fruits, vegetables, grains and lean proteins can provide your body with the nutrients necessary to maintain healthy, functioning nerves.
  • Regular exercise: Maintaining an optimal weight with exercise as well as a balanced diet can prevent and also control metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

When to see a doctor for numbness in both hands

Visit your physician to discuss the exact cause of your symptoms in order to get appropriate care. Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your physician may suggest:

  • Medications to relax blood vessels: There are many different kinds of medications that can combat constriction in your blood vessels by dilating (relaxing) them and promoting circulation.
  • Anticonvulsants: Numbness is not the result of seizures, but some anticonvulsant medications are useful to treat numbness [6].

When numbness in both hands is an emergency

If you experience any symptoms of speech difficulty, facial drooping, or weakness to the point you cannot raise your hand or arm, call 911 immediately. These could be signs of a stroke.

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Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Numbness In Both Hands

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • What is your body mass?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Turn your head toward the side of your body that is hurting. Lift your head up as someone else pushes down on your head. Does this cause greater pain in your upper body? (This is known as Spurling's test.)
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your numbness in both hands. These questions are also covered.

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Numbness In Both Hands Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced numbness in both hands have also experienced:

  • 9% Hand Tingling
  • 5% Hand Numbness
  • 4% Pain In Both Hands

People who have experienced numbness in both hands were most often matched with:

  • 33% Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • 33% De Quervain'S Tenosynovitis
  • 33% Diabetic Neuropathy

People who have experienced numbness in both hands had symptoms persist for:

  • 43% Less than a day
  • 24% Over a month
  • 16% Less than a week

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Numbness In Both Hands Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your numbness in both hands

References

  1. Numb Hands. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Published 2016. AASH Link.
  2. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated August 16, 2018. NINDS Link.
  3. Conditions - Syringomyelia. American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project. Published April 2008. ASAP Link.
  4. Sammaritano LR. Lupus and Fibromyalgia. HSS. Updated September 28, 2009. HSS Link.
  5. Raynaud's. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. NHLBI Link.
  6. Numbness. Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. Updated February 18, 2016. MSAA Link.

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