Numbness Tingling in Hands and Fingers – Symptoms of Diabetes

Numbness and tingling in the hands, fingers and extremities is a symptom of diabetes caused by nerve damage known as diabetic neuropathies. This nerve damage is in turn caused by heightened levels of glucose in the blood which is the main symptom of both types of diabetes. The exact mechanism through which prolonged exposure to glucose causes nerve damage is unknown but currently being researched. It may be a result of the direct effect that glucose has on the nerves, or it may be that the result of other effects such as poor circulation. It is likely that it is a combination of factors that varies from case to case.

The sensation of this numbness and tingling has been likened to that of sleeping on your hands after waking up. This causes a similar loss of sensation that makes your hands or feet feel ‘bloated’ and ‘dead’. At the same time you might experience coldness in the area and possibly a rash. If the numbness and tingling occurs every time you sit down, is worse in the morning and at night, occurs alongside pain in the forearms and fingers and/or is also joined by a rash or dizziness; all these things point to a high likelihood of the tingling being related to diabetes.

Diabetic neuropathy is one of the later symptoms of diabetes and is a cause for concern as in some extreme cases it can lead to the loss of those extremities. At the same time it is associated with difficulties with eyesight which is also one of the more serious symptoms of diabetes. As such it is better to identify the existence of diabetes before you notice numbness or tingling. However once you do notice those things it is important to get to a doctor as soon as possible.

Other symptoms to look out for then in conjunction with/before the onset of the numbness include continuous urination and an unquenchable thirst. Both of these symptoms are caused by the body trying to ‘flush’ out the extra glucose in the blood, and these are often what alerts doctors and patients to the presence of diabetes. If you notice you are excessively thirsty then you should see a doctor before the onset of nerve damage. If it is not diabetes it might be related to other serious conditions. Two of the other most common warning signs of diabetes are sudden weight loss and tiredness. Both of these are caused by either the lack of insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the ability to utilise it (type 2). As insulin is the hormone used to convert glucose into energy, this is what causes the excess glucose in the body. At the same time it of course leaves the body without energy causing the patient to a) feel more exhausted and b) burn fat stores for more energy.

Numbness and tingling on their own do also not necessarily point to diabetes and there are other possible causes. It may be a result of unrelated poor circulation, or unrelated nerve damage (for example eating too much vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage, as can Raynaud’s phenomenon – a fascinating condition where strong emotions and temperatures cause blood vessels to spasm, as well as many other conditions.

The diabetic neuropathy might also present itself in different ways through different forms. Tingling in the extremities is known as ‘peripheral neuropathy’ but diabetic neuropathy can also cause damage elsewhere. Autonomic neuropathy for example causes changes in digestion, bowel and bladder functions as well as perspiration and sexual responses. This is what often causes heart conditions in diabetics by damaging the nerves connected to the heart and that control blood pressure. This can also damage the eyes and cause ‘hypoglycemia unawareness’ where patients are no longer able to tell when they have low blood glucose.

Proximal neuropathy meanwhile causes pains in the hips, thighs, buttocks and legs and finally focal neuropathy can result in the sudden weakness of a nerve or group of nerves causing pain, weakness, tingling or malfunction at any point in the body.

If you experience tingling sensations or any of the other forms of diabetic neuropathy then you should see a doctor immediately. If you are already undergoing treatment for diabetes then you might need to increase your dosage while if you are not this might well point to an advanced form of diabetes. Be always vigilant however in listening to your body for other signs of diabetes, particularly if you have a history of diabetes in your family. It is far better to ‘catch’ diabetes before it progresses to neuropathy as nerve damage may be irreversible.



17 Comments

  1. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ARTICLE. I HAVE BEEN HAVING SYMTOMS SUCH AS NUMDNESS IN MY HAND ANY TIME OF THE AND NIGHT, NIGHT TIME IS WORST AS PAIN SHOOTS RIGHT UP TO MY FOREARM WAKES ME UP. I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST AN AGE THING. ROB

  2. I am lying awake again because of this condition and reading details has convinced me this is not normal and to make docs appt thanks!

  3. I have just had bloods taken for diabetes & am awaiting the results at my local surgery, your article is just the way I am feeling at times I am hardly able to walk with pain in my hip etc. I am also experiencing the tingling in my hands & feet, should I go to speak with my GP again as the bloods where only taken on Friday. Thank you for your help.

    Jean

  4. I've just been diagnosed with borderline diabetes and I found the information very useful!

  5. I will be going to my doctor now as this article advises. I learned a lot about what I have been experiencing & I am glad that I found this article.

  6. Reading this article has created a serious awareness of my condition. I am aware of my having Type 2 diabetes and I am being treated for it. Recently I have begun to experience tingling in my fingers and in a few instances, I have felt it creeping up to my elbows. This causes me concern. Thank you for helping me to realize how important it is for me to keep my diabetes under control.

  7. Thank you for that information.

  8. I have had insulin dependent diabetes since 1994 and firstly got pins & needles, followed by a burning throbbing in my right hand and arm, and now I have developed lumps in both hands above or below the knuckles and restricted movement, also can be very painful. I had an x-ray and blood tests and no arthritis.

    My diabetic team are absolutely useless, they just tell me to take more insulin, I have asked for a pump from my GP and diabetic team only to fall on deaf ears. I have high blood sugars on a daily basis, I get tired and irritable with people. It is also getting hard to walk as my right foot causes me pain.

    I seem to get the impression that the hospitals would rather we die as it would be cheaper for them. They seem to care more about balancing the books than they do about patient care.

  9. Great information

  10. I was really concerned about this tingling and I am a type 2 insulin diabetic. This article answered some of my questions, but not all.

    I am under a doctor’s care and I'd like to know how to stop it.

  11. This article has described my symptoms very accurately. Excellent.

  12. Just gone o insulin and had tingling and numbness but was told it is not the insulin, got an appointment with doctor as this is very worrying as I didn’t have this before.

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

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