Experiencing a sensation of tingling in the hands and feet? Here are some possible reasons why

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on January 10, 2020. Written by Caitlin Boyd. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


It’s not unusual to occasionally experience tingling in the hands and feet. But if this tingling sensation doesn’t go away—or it appears frequently—then it’s worth talking about it with your healthcare provider and learning more about the possible causes.

To help out with that last point, here we’ll explore a number of potential causes of tingling in the hands and feet—as well as treatment options and more—so read on.

Common causes of tingling in the hands and feet

Vitamin deficiency

B vitamins like B6 and B12 play an important role in healthy nerve function. So it might not come as a surprise to learn that deficiencies in these key nutrients may lead to tingling in your hands and feet—an early warning sign of potential nerve damage.

If you have a history of heavy drinking, you might also be at risk for alcoholic neuropathy. Heavy alcohol consumption can make it harder for your body to absorb B vitamins and other important nutrients, potentially resulting in vitamin deficiencies.


Check for deficiencies in 3 key B vitamins (including B6 and B12) with the at-home B Vitamins Test.


Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is a kind of thyroid condition involving low levels of thyroid hormone. Because the thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating many of the body’s important processes (such as metabolism), an underactive thyroid can trigger a number of different symptoms—including a sensation of tingling in the hands and feet or other parts of the body. Numbness or a painful “pins-and-needles” sensation may also occur.
Some people with hypothyroidism may also experience weight gain, fatigue, cold intolerance, hair loss, depression, and/or other symptoms.


Easily check up on 3 key thyroid hormones, plus thyroid antibodies, with our at-home Thyroid Test.


Carpal tunnel syndrome

Your arms and legs contain many nerves that control movement and sensation. One of these nerves, known as the median nerve, passes from your forearm into your wrist. The space where the nerve passes is called the carpal tunnel. This passage is very narrow and has little room to expand.

If your carpal tunnel narrows or the tissues swell, it can put pressure on the median nerve—resulting in a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. You may experience pain, numbness, or tingling in both hands.

Repetitive hand motion is a common culprit for carpal tunnel syndrome, but it can also be triggered by:

  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Thyroid disorders

Diabetes

Diabetes can lead to the development of diabetic neuropathy, a condition that affects up to 1 in 2 people with diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy damages the nerves in your hands and feet, and a tingling sensation is often the first sign of this condition. So if you have diabetes and develop a tingling sensation (or numbness or pain), notify your healthcare provider and/or care team as soon as possible; they may recommend next steps you can take to slow the progression of diabetic neuropathy.

Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder that causes nerve damage. If you have GBS, your immune system attacks healthy nerves. Over time, your immune system damages the nerves’ protective covering, which means your nerves may have trouble sending and receiving signals.

People with Guillain-Barré syndrome often report weakness, numbness, or tingling. These symptoms start out in the hands and feet but, without medical care, can spread rapidly.

Researchers aren't sure what causes Guillain-Barré syndrome, but it tends to appear after an infection like bronchitis or stomach flu. So if you develop a tingling sensation after getting sick, it’s a good idea to seek medical care right away.

Seeking medical care

A sensation of tingling in the feet and hands is a possible symptom of several different health conditions. To make a diagnosis, your healthcare provider may perform a physical examination. This may involve checking your reflexes or measuring the sensitivity in your hands and feet. Your provider may also recommend laboratory tests to assess nutritional status, thyroid hormones, or other aspects of your body’s health.

Once your healthcare provider makes a diagnosis, a treatment strategy may be recommended. Treating a chronic condition like diabetes or hypothyroidism often requires prescription medications, but vitamin deficiencies can sometimes be reversed with over-the-counter supplements or dietary changes.

In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome or other injuries, physical therapy may be suggested.

Common questions about tingling in the hands and feet

What causes tingling in the hands and feet?

Among other possible causes, a tingling or prickling sensation in the hands and feet can result from:

  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Diabetes

Is tingling in the hands and feet a sign of a serious health problem?

Tingling in your hands and feet isn't always cause for concern. Many people develop minor, short-lasting tingling sensations after an injury or after their limb "falls asleep."

But if you regularly experience a tingling sensation in your hands, feet, or other parts of the body, talk with your healthcare provider as soon as possible as this may be a symptom of a serious health condition.

How can I stop the tingling in my hands and feet?

If your symptoms are linked to a chronic health condition, you may need medication, surgery, and/or lifestyle changes. But treatment will depend on the specific underlying cause of your symptoms, so it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider to learn what they recommend for you.


References

1. Staff NP, Windebank AJ. Peripheral neuropathy due to vitamin deficiency, toxins, and medications. Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2014;20(5 Peripheral Nervous System Disorders):1293-1306. doi:10.1212/01.CON.0000455880.06675.5a

2. Alcoholic neuropathy. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed January 10, 2020.

3. Wiersinga WM. Adult Hypothyroidism. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000.

4. Chaker L, Bianco AC, Jonklaas J, Peeters RP. Hypothyroidism. Lancet. 2017;390(10101):1550-1562. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30703-1

5. Diabetic neuropathy. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed January 10, 2020.

6. Guillain-Barre syndrome. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed January 10, 2020.

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