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12 Less Known Causes of Numbness in Fingertips

Jan has been researching and writing about health and nutrition for several years.

Innervation of the fingertips

Green: the median nerve; Blue: the ulnar nerve; Red: the radial nerve

Green: the median nerve; Blue: the ulnar nerve; Red: the radial nerve

Common Causes Of Numb and Tingly Fingertips

Examples of well known causes of numbness and tingling in the fingertips:

  • Callus, which is thick skin on the fingertips, for example, in guitar or violin players causes decreased sensitivity in the fingertips.
  • Hyperventilation due to anxiety or heavy exercise can be associated with transient tingling in the fingers and around the mouth.
  • Peripheral neuropathy, for example, in individuals with poorly controlled diabetes mellitus or in chronic alcoholics can cause tingling and numbness in the feet and hands in the stockings-and-gloves pattern.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome due to wrist overuse can include tingling and numbness in the first three fingers; see the green area in the picture.
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome can include tingling and numbness in the pinky finger after leaning on the elbows; see the blue area in the picture.
  • Cervical radiculopathy, which refers to pinched nerves that arise from the neck spinal cord and supply the arms caused by herniated discs or bony spurs in the neck spine; symptoms may include pain, tingling and numbness in the neck arm, hand and fingers on one or both sides.
  • Raynaud's phenomenon refers to color changes (white, blue and red), tingling and numbness in the fingertips after exposure to cold or during stress.
  • Frostnip, frostbite, burns or scalds can cause transient or permanent numbness in the fingertips.
  • A finger injury with the nerve damage can cause numbness in the fingertip lasting for several weeks.

For a much more comprehensive list of causes check the source on the bottom of the article.

Fingertip compression

The index finger pressing on the spray can nozzle

The index finger pressing on the spray can nozzle

1. Spray Can Painting

When you spray paint and therefore press on the spray can nozzle for an hour or two without much rest, the fingertip of your index finger can go numb and remain so for several weeks, months or even more than a year. When this happens you can not do much about it, except avoiding pressing with this finger until the sensation comes back.

To avoid using a finger, you can use a spray can with a lever, which you hold with your hand.

2. A Cut of the Digital Nerve

The digital nerves run on either side of all fingers. When you cut the nerve on one side of the finger, the sensation in the affected side distally to the cut may be partially or completely lost. The part of the nerve distally to the cut eventually dies off and the proximal part then regrows into the denervated part at a rate about one millimeter per day.

After simple and shallow cuts, for example, with a kitchen knife, sensation in the finger can recover spontaneously, but after deep or messy cuts, for example, with a saw, surgical repair may be required. Without surgery, a nerve may not heal properly.

Handlebar palsy

Pressure by handlebars can cause ulnar nerve palsy.

Pressure by handlebars can cause ulnar nerve palsy.

3. Guyon's Canal Syndrome

Guyon's canal is a bony space on the palmar and outer side of the wrist (on the side of the pinky finger) through which the ulnar nerve runs. Repeated pressure on the wrist in the Guyon's canal area can result in numbness, tingling and weakness in the pinky finger and the same side of the hand and wrist. This can occur in cyclists (cyclist's palsy), weightlifters, workers with jackhammers or those who use crutches for a prolonged time or have arthritis or ganglion cyst in the wrist.

4. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet is the space between the clavicle, the first rib and local muscles, through which nerves and vessels to the arm run. Compression of these nerves or vessels can cause numbness, tingling and weakness in the arm, hand or the fingertips and, sometimes, swelling and bluish discoloration of the hand and fingers. Causes may include:

  • Cervical rib — a congenital anomaly with an additional rib above the normal first rib
  • Repetitive arm movements in assembly workers or typists
  • Whiplash injury after car or motorbike accidents
  • Jobs or sports that involve overhead activity: baseball, swimming, weightlifting, etc.


Coffee in large amounts can cause tingling in the fingertips.

Coffee in large amounts can cause tingling in the fingertips.

5. Coffee

Large amounts of coffee (at least 6-10 cups) drunk per day can, in some people, result in chronic caffeine intoxication or caffeinism. Tingling in fingertips is probably caused by anxiety associated with increased frequency of breathing, which results in temporary drop of blood calcium levels.

6. Seafood Poisoning

Numbness and tingling in the fingertips, around the mouth and in other parts of the body, itching and diarrhea can be caused by ciguatera poisoning after eating certain big tropical fish, such as tuna and barracuda, by shellfish poisoning or by eating salmon or buffalo fish (Haff disease).

7. Migraine Aura

Some migraineurs experience numbness and tingling in the fingers that travels up to the arm and to the face, followed by headache usually on one side.

Drugs used to treat migraine--ergotamine, methysergide and topiramate--may also cause numbness in the fingertips. Ergotamine overdose may even cause prolonged arterial spasm in the fingers, which may lead to gangrene of the fingertips.

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8. Drugs

Examples of drugs that may cause numbness and tingling in the fingertips (an incomplete list):

  • Antibiotics: nitrofurantoin, norfloxacin
  • Antidepressants: phenelzine, trazodone
  • Acyclovir (an antiviral drug)
  • Levodopa and other drugs for Parkinson's disease
  • Chemotherapy
  • Diuretics (acetazolamide, metolazone)
  • Ethambutol and isoniazid for tuberculosis
  • Statins (atorvastatin) to lower blood triglycerides

Illegal drugs: amphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, glue sniffing, ketamine, nitrous oxide, phencyclidine.

9. Metabolic Disorders

  • Hypoglycemia (in treated diabetics after skipped meal or the insulin or oral hypoglycemic drug overdose)
  • Hypocalcemia (in hyperventilation, vitamin D deficiency, pancreatitis)
  • Hypokalemia (in prolonged starvation, anorexia, vomiting or diarrhea) or hyperkalemia (due to potassium chloride poisoning)
  • Hypomagnesemia (after alcohol withdrawal)
  • Hyponatremia (in adrenal insufficiency, water intoxication, lung cancer with inappropriate ADH secretion).

Other symptoms of metabolic disorders, beside numbness and tingling, may include nausea, muscle cramps and impaired consciousness.

10. Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Rarely, few weeks after a respiratory infection (common cold, flu) or gastroenteritis, some people may experience sudden onset of numbness and tingling in the toes that progresses toward the feet and knees and numbness in the fingertips that progresses toward the hands and arms. This can be followed by muscle weakness that can affect the whole body including the respiratory muscles.

Symptoms may fully develop within few hours or days and may be life-threatening, so hospitalization is often required. Symptoms usually resolve in several weeks.

Fingertip eczema

Eczema on the fingertip

Eczema on the fingertip

11. Fingertip Eczema

Main symptoms of a fingertip eczema are peeling of one or more fingertips on one or both hands followed by numbness, cracks, tenderness, but usually no itch, in the fingertips, and full recovery in 3-4 weeks. The condition tends to repeat on the same or other fingertip soon after healing.

The underlying mechanism may include allergic or irritant contact dermatitis.

Triggers of fingertip eczema may include irritant plants, such as garlic, tulip bulbs, chili pepper; acrylic nails; acrylic materials (used by orthopedic surgeons and dentists), rubber, nickel-plated tools (in car mechanics); prolonged contact with paper or cardboard; water, soaps, disinfectants, shampoos; antibiotics or stress.

12. Blue Finger Syndrome

Some people with a history of Raynaud's phenomenon, frostbite, finger injury, cryoglobulinemia, polycythemia or smoking may experience sudden bluish discoloration and numbness of one or more fingers without apparent reason. The condition is usually benign and resolves spontaneously in few days.

More causes of blue fingers.

Read in detail:

  • Causes of Paresthesia in Fingertips
    Hypoxia, anemia, diabetes, vasculitis, atherosclerosis, thrombosis, embolism, leprosy, lung diseases, extensive lists of drugs, poisons and other causes of peripheral neuropathy, Raynaud's phenomenon and carpal tunnel syndrome, hammer hand syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes and Surgical Decompression

Neurological examination of the arm, hands and fingers

Ever had numbness in the fingers?

Common Causes of Numbness in the Fingertips

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Thumb, index and middle finger tingling is caused by the damage of:
    • Ulnar nerve
    • Median nerve
    • Radial nerve
  2. Little and ring finger tingling is caused by:
    • Ulnar nerve
    • Medial nerve
    • Radial nerve
  3. White and numb fingers can be caused by:
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Vibration tools overuse
    • Herniated disc in the neck spine
  4. Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically:
    • Symmertical
    • Asymmetrical
  5. Which is the LEAST likely cause of a blue and numb finger(s):
    • Heart disease
    • Blood clot in the finger
    • Herniated disc in the neck spine
    • Cold injury
    • Raynaud disease
    • Finger injury

Answer Key

  1. Median nerve
  2. Ulnar nerve
  3. Vibration tools overuse
  4. Asymmetrical
  5. Herniated disc in the neck spine


Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 10, 2020:

Very detailed and informative. Thank you for another great article.

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on November 28, 2016:

I found this article very helpful. Spray cans have been a culprit for me. I also found the information about caffeine intoxication compelling. My intake is high daily. Thanks.

Pete on October 01, 2015:

My little finger seems to have a dead bit at the tip. Skin feels harder here. May be related to scorpion sting several years ago, after which it took many months before I could lift my arm.

Peggy Stewart on November 16, 2014:

I ate some fish from a deli at United Food Store two days in a row and I think that has caused the tingling hurting in my 3 fingers.

neelam on October 27, 2014:

very informative article.

kat11 from Illinois on October 07, 2013:

Your article was well researched and it was very informative.

Jan Modric (author) from Europe on October 01, 2013:

I appreciate all the comments. The original article I wrote contains additional details and pictures.

Peter Geekie from Sittingbourne on October 01, 2013:

Dear Jan Modric,

Thank you for an interesting and well researched article.

As you say there are a multitude of reasons for this to occur and sometimes it is rather difficult to pinpoint the right one.

Voted up, useful and interesting.

Kind regards Peter

kat11 from Illinois on July 10, 2013:

Excellent written article. There was a lot of information and will help direct people to get the necessary help from the medical profession.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 10, 2013:

wonderful hub on the numbess of fingertips. I had once used the super glue and had some on my thumb. Hard to wash it off. Now, it makes a rough surface that looks similar to eczema photo that you had included here. I think that caused the numbness. Voted useful

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