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Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects the small intestine. When a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, an autoimmune reaction occurs.
25 Causes of Tingling in Hands and Feet
We’ve all likely felt a temporary tingling sensation in our hands or feet. It can happen if we fall asleep on our arm or sit with our legs crossed for too long. You may also see this sensation referred to as paresthesia.
The feeling may also be described as a prickling, burning, or “pins and needles” sensation. In addition to tingling, you may also feel numbness, pain, or weakness in or around your hands and feet.
A variety of factors or conditions can cause tingling in your hands or feet. Generally speaking, pressure, trauma, or damage to nerves can cause the tingling to occur.
Below, we’ll explore 25 potential causes of a tingling sensation in your hands or feet.
1. Diabetic neuropathy
Neuropathy occurs as a result of damage to nerves. While there are many types of neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy can affect the hands and feet.
Diabetic neuropathy happens when nerve damage is caused by diabetes. It can affect the legs and feet, and sometimes the arms and hands.
In diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage occurs due to high blood sugar in the bloodstream. In addition to damaging nerves, it can also damage the blood vessels that supply your nerves. When nerves don’t receive enough oxygen, they may not function well.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that up to half of people who have diabetes have peripheral neuropathy.
2. Vitamin deficiency
Vitamin deficiencies can be caused by not having enough of a specific vitamin in your diet, or by a condition in which the body doesn’t properly absorb the vitamin.
Some vitamins are important to the health of your nerves. Examples include:
Vitamin B12 is necessary for cells to produce energy. It is found in animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs. Vegans and vegetarians may need to supplement B12. A shortage of B12 in the diet can cause neurological damage, which may appear as tingling in your hands or feet.
You need to consume vitamin B6 every day because it cannot be stored in the body. Meat, fish, nuts, legumes, grains, noncitrus fruits, and potatoes are good sources of B6. People with a deficiency of B6 may experience a rash or cognitive changes.
Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, plays a role in nerve impulses and neuron repair. Meat, legumes, whole grains, and nuts are good sources of B1. People with diets high in refined grains may be more likely to experience B1 deficiency. It can cause pain or tingling in the hands and feet.
Vitamin E deficiency is more likely to be caused by problems absorbing fat in the gut than a lack of vitamin E in your diet. Signs of a vitamin E deficiency include tingling in hands or feet and difficulty with coordination. Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and leafy greens are good sources of vitamin E.
Folate deficiency can cause pain or tingling in the hands and feet. A 2019 study found that this may have a greater effect on people under age 40. Sources of folate, also known as vitamin B9, include dark leafy greens, whole grains, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, liver, and seafood.
3. Pinched nerve
You can get a pinched nerve when there’s too much pressure on a nerve from the surrounding tissues. For example, things like injury, repetitive movements, and inflammatory conditions can cause a nerve to become pinched.
A pinched nerve can occur in many areas of the body and can affect the hands or feet, causing tingling, numbness, or pain.
A pinched nerve in your lower spine may cause these sensations to radiate down the back of your leg and into your foot.
4. Carpal tunnel
Carpal tunnel is a common condition that happens when your median nerve is compressed as it moves through your wrist. This can occur due to injury, repetitive motions, or inflammatory conditions.
People with carpal tunnel may feel numbness or tingling in the first four fingers of their hand.
5. Kidney failure
Kidney failure happens when your kidneys are no longer functioning properly. Conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes can lead to kidney failure.
When your kidneys aren’t functioning correctly, fluid and waste products may accumulate in your body, leading to nerve damage. Tingling due to kidney failure often occurs in the legs or feet.
The swelling that occurs throughout the body during pregnancy can put pressure on some of your nerves.
Because of this, you may feel tingling in your hands and feet. The symptoms typically disappear after pregnancy.
7. Medication use
A variety of medications may cause nerve damage, which can cause you to feel a tingling sensation in your hands or feet. In fact, it can be a common side effect of medications used to treat cancer (chemotherapy) and HIV.
Other examples of medications that can cause tingling in the hands and feet include:
- heart or blood pressure drugs, such as amiodarone or hydralazine
- anti-infection drugs, such as metronidazole and dapsone
- anticonvulsants, such as phenytoin
Normally, your immune system protects your body from foreign invaders. An autoimmune disorder is when your immune system attacks the cells of your body by mistake.
8. Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes swelling and pain in the joints. It often occurs in the wrists and hands, but can also affect other parts of the body, including the ankles and feet.
The inflammation from the condition can place pressure on nerves, leading to tingling.
9. Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the protective covering of your nerves, called myelin. This can lead to nerve damage.
Feeling numbness or tingling in the arms, legs, and face is a common symptom of MS.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system attacks the tissues of the body. It can affect any part of the body, including the nervous system.
Tingling in the hands or feet can be caused by nearby nerves becoming compressed due to inflammation or swelling from lupus.
11. Celiac disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects the small intestine. When a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, an autoimmune reaction occurs.
Some people with celiac disease can have symptoms of neuropathy, including tingling in the hands and feet. These symptoms may also occur in people without any gastrointestinal symptoms.
An infection occurs when disease-causing organisms invade your body. Infections can be viral, bacterial, or fungal in origin.
12. Lyme disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that’s transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. If left untreated, the infection can begin to affect the nervous system and can cause tingling in the hands and feet.
Shingles is a painful rash that’s caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which lies dormant in the nerves of people who have had chickenpox.
Typically, shingles only affects a small part of one side of your body, which can include the hands, arms, legs, and feet. You may feel a tingling or numbness in the affected area.
14. Hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B and C are caused by viruses. They lead to inflammation of the liver, which can result in cirrhosis or liver cancer if left untreated.
Hepatitis C infection may also cause peripheral neuropathy, although how this happens is largely unknown .
In some cases, infection with hepatitis B or C can lead to a condition called cryoglobulinemia. In this condition, certain proteins in the blood clump together in cold temperatures, causing inflammation. One of the symptoms of this condition is numbness and tingling.
15. HIV or AIDS
HIV is a virus that attacks the cells of the immune system, increasing the risk of acquiring infections as well as some cancers. When untreated, the infection can progress to the last stage of HIV infection, called AIDS, in which the immune system is severely damaged.
HIV can affect the nervous system. In some cases, this can include the nerves of the hands and feet, where tingling, numbness, and pain may be felt.
16. Hansen’s disease (leprosy)
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a bacterial infection that can affect the skin, nerves, and respiratory tract.
When the nervous system is affected, you may feel a tingling or numbness in the affected body part, which can include the hands and feet.
Other possible causes
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.
Although uncommon, severe hypothyroidism that has gone untreated can sometimes cause damage to nerves, leading to tingling sensations or numbness. The mechanism for how exactly this happens is unknown.
18. Toxin exposure
Various toxins and chemicals are considered to be neurotoxins. This means they’re harmful to your nervous system. Exposure can cause a variety of symptoms, including tingling in your hands or feet.
Some examples of toxins include:
- heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and arsenic
- acrylamide, a chemical used for many industrial purposes
- ethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze
- hexacarbons, which can be found in some solvents and glues
Fibromyalgia includes a group of symptoms, such as:
- widespread muscle pain
- changes in mood
Some people with fibromyalgia may experience other symptoms, such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and tingling in the hands and feet. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown.
20. Ganglion cyst
A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled lump that most frequently occurs at joints, particularly the wrist. They can apply pressure to nearby nerves, leading to a tingling sensation in the hand or fingers, although the cyst itself is painless.
The cause of these cysts is unknown, although joint irritation may play a role.
21. Cervical spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis occurs due to age-related changes in the part of your spine that’s found in your neck, also called your cervical spine. These changes can include things like herniation, degeneration, and osteoarthritis.
Sometimes these changes can put pressure on the spinal cord, which can lead to worsening neck pain as well as symptoms like tingling or numbness in the arms and legs.
22. Raynaud’s phenomenon
Raynaud’s phenomenon affects blood flow to the arms and legs.
The blood vessels in these areas get smaller in an extreme reaction to cold temperatures or stress. This reduction in blood flow can cause numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes.
23. Alcohol-related neuropathy
Long-term alcohol misuse can lead to the development of peripheral neuropathy, which can lead to tingling in the hands and feet.
The condition progresses gradually. The mechanism that causes it is unknown, although vitamin or nutritional deficiency may play a role.
Vasculitis occurs when your blood vessels become inflamed. There are many types of vasculitis. What causes it isn’t completely understood.
Because inflammation can lead to changes in blood vessels, blood flow to an affected area may become restricted. In some types of vasculitis, this may lead to nerve problems, such as tingling, numbness, and weakness.
25. Guillain-Barré syndrome
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare nervous system condition in which your immune system attacks part of your nervous system. What exactly causes the condition is currently unknown.
Guillain-Barré syndrome can sometimes follow after an illness. Unexplained tingling and possibly pain in the hands and feet can be one of the first symptoms of the syndrome.
If you visit a doctor or other healthcare professional for unexplained tingling in your hands or feet, there are a variety of things they may do to help them make a diagnosis.
- a physical exam, which may also include a neurological exam to observe your reflexes and motor or sensory function
- a review of your medical history, during which they’ll ask about things like your symptoms, preexisting conditions you may have, and any medications you’re taking
- blood testing, which can allow them to assess things like the levels of certain chemicals, vitamin levels, or hormones in your blood, your organ function, and your blood cell levels
- imaging tests, such as an X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound
- a test of your nerve function using methods such as nerve conduction velocity tests or electromyography
- a nerve or skin biopsy
The treatment for tingling in your hands and feet will be determined by what’s causing it. After you have a diagnosis, your healthcare professional will work with you to come up with an appropriate treatment plan.
Some examples of treatment options may include one or several of the following:
- adjusting the dosage of a current medication or switching to an alternative medication, if possible
- dietary supplementation for vitamin deficiencies
- adjusting diabetes management
- treating underlying conditions, such as an infection, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus
- surgery to correct nerve compression or to remove a cyst
- over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to help with any pain that may occur with the tingling
- prescription medications for pain and tingling if OTC medications don’t work
- lifestyle changes like being sure to take care of your feet, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and limiting alcohol consumption
There are a variety of things that can cause tingling in your hands and feet. These things can include but aren’t limited to diabetes, an infection, or a pinched nerve.
If you’re experiencing unexplained tingling in your hands or feet, talk with a doctor. An early diagnosis of what may be causing your condition is important for both addressing your symptoms and preventing additional nerve damage from occurring.
Last medically reviewed on January 5, 2022
Tingling in Hands and Feet
Tingling hands, feet, or both is an extremely common and bothersome symptom. Such tingling can sometimes be benign and temporary. For example, it could result from pressure on nerves when your arm is crooked under your head as you fall asleep. Or it could be from pressure on nerves when you cross your legs too long. In either case, the “pins and needles” effect — which is usually painless — is soon relieved by removing the pressure that caused it.
But in many cases, tingling in the hands, feet, or both can be severe, episodic, or chronic. It also can come with other symptoms, such as pain, itching, numbness, and muscle wasting. In such cases, tingling may be a sign of nerve damage, which can result from causes as varied as traumatic injuries or repetitive stress injuries, bacterial or viral infections, toxic exposures, and systemic diseases such as diabetes.
Such nerve damage is known as peripheral neuropathy because it affects nerves distant from the brain and spinal cord, often in the hands and feet. There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy. Over time, the condition can worsen, making you less mobile and even disabled. More than 20 million Americans, most of them older adults, are estimated to have peripheral neuropathy.
It’s important to get medical help right away for any tingling in your hands, feet, or both that’s lasted a while. The earlier the cause of your tingling is found and brought under control, the less likely you are to get what could be lifelong problems.
Causes of Tingling in the Hands and Feet
Diabetes is one of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy, accounting for about 30% of cases. In diabetic neuropathy, tingling and other symptoms often first develop in both feet and go up the legs, followed by tingling and other symptoms that affect both hands and go up the arms. About two-thirds of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage. In many cases, these symptoms are the first signs of diabetes.
In another 30% of peripheral neuropathy cases, the cause is unknown, or “idiopathic.”
The remaining 40% of cases have a variety of causes such as:
Nerve entrapment syndromes. These include carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar nerve palsy, peroneal nerve palsy, and radial nerve palsy.
Systemic diseases. These include kidney disorders, liver disease, vascular damage and blood diseases, amyloidosis, connective tissue disorders and chronic inflammation, hormonal imbalances (including hypothyroidism), and cancers and benign tumors that impinge on nerves.
Vitamin deficiencies. You need vitamins E, B1, B6, B12, and niacin for healthy nerves. A B12 deficiency, for example, can lead to pernicious anemia, an important cause of peripheral neuropathy. But too much B6 also can cause tingling in the hands and feet.
Alcoholism. People who have alcoholism are more likely to lack thiamine or other important vitamins because of poor dietary habits, a common cause of peripheral neuropathy. It’s also possible that alcoholism itself can cause nerve damage, a condition that some researchers call alcoholic neuropathy.
Toxins. These include heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, and thallium, and some industrial and environmental chemicals. They also include certain medications — especially chemotherapy drugs used for lung cancer — but also some antiviral and antibiotic drugs.
Infections. These include Lyme disease, shingles (varicella zoster), cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr, herpes simplex, and HIV and AIDS.
Autoimmune diseases. These include chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, Guillain-Barre syndrome, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Inherited disorders. These include a group that may have sensory and motor symptoms; the most common type is known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
Injury. Often related to trauma, nerves can be compressed, crushed, or damaged in other ways, resulting in nerve pain. Examples include nerve compression caused by a herniated disk or dislocated bone.
Multiple sclerosis. The disease causes your body’s immune system to attack the fatty myelin sheath around nerve fibers all around your body. Tingling in the hands and feet is a common symptom.
Diagnosis of Tingling Hands and Feet
If you seek care for your tingling hands or feet, your health care provider will do a physical exam and take an extensive medical history addressing your symptoms, work environment, social habits (including alcohol use), toxic exposure, risk of HIV or other infectious diseases, and family history of neurological disease.
They also may perform other tests, such as:
- Blood tests. These can include tests to detect diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, liver or kidney dysfunction, other metabolic disorders, and signs of abnormal immune system activity.
- An examination of cerebrospinal fluid. This can identify antibodies associated with peripheral neuropathy.
- An electromyogram (EMG), a test of the electrical activity of muscle
- Nerve conduction velocity (NCV)
Other tests may include:
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Nerve biopsy
- Skin biopsy to look at nerve fiber endings
Treatments for Tingling Hands and Feet
Successful treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis and treatment of the cause of the tingling. As long as the peripheral nerve cells have not been killed, they can regenerate.
Although there are no treatments for inherited types of peripheral neuropathy, many of the acquired types can be improved with treatment. For example, good blood sugar control in diabetes can help keep diabetic neuropathy from getting worse, and vitamin supplements can correct peripheral neuropathy in people with vitamin deficiencies.
General lifestyle recommendations include keeping weight in check, avoiding exposure to toxins, following a doctor-supervised exercise program, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding or limiting alcohol. Recommendations also include quitting smoking, which constricts blood supply to blood vessels supplying nutrients to peripheral nerves.
In some cases, tingling and other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may be eased with prescriptions developed for treating seizures and depression.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “NINDS Paresthesia Information Page,” “Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet.”
JAMA Patient Page: “Peripheral Neuropathy.”
The Neuropathy Association: “About Peripheral Neuropathy: Facts,” “Learn More About Peripheral Neuropathy,” “About Peripheral Neuropathy: Symptoms and Signs.”
The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals: “Peripheral Neuropathy.”
The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Second Home Edition: “Mononeuropathy,” “Polyneuropathy.”
Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: “13 Points about the Pesky Skin Sensations of Paresthesia.”
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “Definition of MS.”