It must have happened to all of you that you often have tingling in your fingertips, which is called neuropathy among medical staff.
Although most of these needle poking sensations are transient and happen when slight pressure stimulates nerves, they are gone as the stress is eliminated.
For example, if you sleep on your hands and arms for a long time, cross your legs, or sit on all fours for a long time, you may experience some needle poking your hands or feet.
But is the only reason for the tingling of the fingers this temporary pressure on the nerves?
Tingling in the hands, feet, and fingers can accompany burning, itching, numbness, and pain, which may be a sign of peripheral neuropathy.
Neuropathy is a disorder and damage to the nerve, and peripheral neuropathy refers to the presence of nerve damage outside the brain and spinal cord.
Till now, there are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy. A detailed description of these causes is beyond this article, but I will try to name some important and common causes.
Causes of tingling and needle-like feeling in the fingers
Let’s take a look at the causes of tingling in the fingers:
- Cervical discopathy:
If you feel numbness in some of your fingers and feel normal in others, nerve pressure is most likely the cause of your problem.
One of the most common sites of this pressure originates from the neck through disk disease.
Discopathy is any disease that puts pressure on nerves that exit the spinal canal.
If your needle-like pain exacerbates in the nighttime, mainly your problem is caused by pressure on nerves.
If you are looking for the most common cause of peripheral neuropathies that lead to persistent and chronic tingling of the hands, feet, and fingers, you should know that diabetes is a common cause.
Thirty percent of cases of tingling in the fingers and toes are related directly or indirectly to diabetic neuropathy.
Despite cervical discopathy mentioned above, diabetes can cause damage to nerves without any pressure and causes neuropathy in the legs, arms, digestive system, stomach, thighs, buttocks, and head.
The pattern of neuropathy caused by diabetes is called stocking-glove neuropathy.
As the name indicates, the needle-like feeling in diabetes-induced neuropathy presents mainly in areas covered by stockings and gloves.
Regular blood sugar control slows the progression of peripheral neuropathy in diabetes.
- Nerve impingement syndromes:
Nerve fibers can get stuck in certain canals and areas, causing pain, tingling, and numbness in the nerve pathway.
The wrist and elbow are two common sites of nerve entrapment that can cause a needle-like feeling in fingertips, where median and ulnar nerves become caught, respectively.
Median nerve entrapment or carpal tunnel syndrome; CTS:
Trap and pressure on the median nerve in the wrist cause carpal tunnel syndrome, the most common type of peripheral nerve impingement syndrome.
This syndrome has tingling and pain from the wrist to the fingertips.
There is pain, numbness, and tingling in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger on the palm. This complication gets worse at night.
Ulnar nerve entrapment of tardy ulnar palsy (TUP):
Another site for nerve entrapment outside the spinal canal is around the elbow area, where the Ulnar nerve gets caught by ligaments and becomes injured.
In this circumstance, the pain and needle-like feeling is felt on tiny fingers.
The ulnar nerve passes through the inner side of the elbow and passes through the inside of the wrist through Guyon’s canal.
- Vitamin deficiency:
There are two primary types of vitamins; water-soluble and fat-soluble. Both types play a crucial role in the normal function and repair of nerves.
Deficiency of B1, B6, B12, and B3 vitamins, which are water-soluble, and vitamin A which is fat soluble, may cause damage to nerves and lead to neuropathy.
Besides the fact that vitamin deficiency will cause neuropathy, on the other hand, excessive intake of vitamins will cause vitamin toxicity and sometimes neuropathy.
Taking too much vitamin B6 can be associated with tingling in the fingers and needle-like feeling because of neuropathy.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a well-known cause of neuropathy. This neuropathy is almost always accompanied by loss of blood formation and anemia. Thus, if someone feels a needle poking their hands and suffers from low blood cells and anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency should be tested carefully.
Alcoholics are very prone to vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency.
Alcoholics who drink alcohol for a long time will suffer from alcohol-induced neuropathy and tingling in the fingers due to thiamine or B1 vitamin deficiency.
- Viruses and infectious agents:
Yes, tingling in fingers can be the result of an infectious agent.
It is very uncommon for this infection to express itself solely by needle-like sensation in the hands, but it can happen.
- Poisonings and toxins:
If you read the data attached to medications that your physician prescribes, you may find neuropathy as a common adverse effect accompanied by therapeutic effects of the drug.
In some medications that are listed below, the rate of producing neuropathy is higher than in others:
- Some antibiotics
Some chemotherapy drugs:
- Statins: Atorvastatin, Rosuvastatin
And some others:
- Autoimmune disorders:
Hypothyroidism can cause a needle-like feeling in the fingertips by two common mechanisms. It can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, puts pressure on the median nerve, and produces a tingling sensation on the thumb, index, and middle finger.
Hypothyroidism may cause neuropathy because thyroid hormones are essential in the normal nerve cells’ normal function of nerves and proper regeneration capability.
- Multiple sclerosis or MS:
MS is one of the most frightening causes of abnormal feelings and sensations across our bodies.
The numbness or needle-like feeling in MS looks like what is seen in cervical discopathy. Therefore it needs a very detailed examination to discover the actual cause of the altered sensation.
- Other less common causes
Narrowing the blood vessels in the fingers and toes can also be causes tingling in the fingers, a phenomenon called Raynaud syndrome.
Diagnosis of different causes of this type of disease:
As you see, there are other causes for feeling needle-like sensations in the fingertips. Still, this problem can be solved by obtaining an accurate history and asking about the history of drugs used and underlying diseases and with the help of paraclinical methods of diagnostic assistance such as:
- Laboratory blood tests for vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, hypothyroidism, HIV infection, and…
- Perform NCV and EMG, Which determine the conduction velocity of the nerve and the electrical activity of the muscle
- CT scan
- Nerve biopsy
We remind you that tingling and numbness of parts of the body may be the first manifestations of MS, so if you frequently suffer from tingling of the limbs without any background disorder and pressure on any part of your body, be sure to See your doctor for additional tests.
Here you can find some clues to find out the most probable causes for your needle-like feeling in your fingertips:
- If you have pain around your neck and shoulder beside a needle-like feeling, you may have cervical discopathy.
- If you have numbness and pain associated with the needle, like feeling just in the thumb, index, and middle finger, then you may have carpal tunnel syndrome.
- If this niggling feeling senses only on the small finger, the pressure on your Ulnar nerve around the elbow beside cervical discopathy is the most relative diagnosis.
- If your problem is accompanied by blood test anemia and decreased RBC, then vitamin B12 deficiency should be considered as the cause.
How to get rid of needle-like feeling in fingertips
Treatment depends on the cause of peripheral neuropathy.
If the compressive causes become diagnosed in the early stages before permanent problems happen, then all the needle-like feelings will go entirely without any long-term complications.
It means that underlying condition like cervical discopathy, Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and Tardy Ulnar nerve palsy benefits most from early diagnosis and treatment.
On the other hand, if your problem is caused by other systematic issues like diabetes or hypothyroidism, the neuropathy may not resolve entirely even by proper treatment, and it may resist to some extent.
You can use the following to reduce the pain of peripheral neuropathy that leads to tingling in the fingers:
- Hot compresses
- Physical mobility
Increased blood flow helps reduce pain and tingling in the fingers.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Be sure to check your blood sugar under the supervision of a doctor.
- If a doctor prescribes, do not neglect the injection of vitamin B12 and use supplements containing vitamin B in appropriate doses.
- Because of altered sensation, be careful about your hands. It is common to injure your hand without any awareness during daily living.