Symptom: Weakness or Numbness

Arm Numbness


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is arm numbness?

Arm numbness is an abnormal condition in which you feel a loss of sensation in one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) arms. The sensation may extend over the length of the arm and into the hands and fingers.

Arm numbness usually arises from a lack of blood supply to an area or nerve damage. Arm numbness can also result from infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other abnormal processes. Most cases of arm numbness are not due to a life-threatening condition.

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Arm numbness is often associated with or preceded by pain-like pins-and-needles, prickling, or burning sensations called paresthesias. Whereas arm numbness is a loss of sensation, paralysis involves a loss of movement, with or without the loss of sensation in the area.

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Depending on the cause, the loss of sensation can disappear quickly, such as numbness from extremely cold temperatures that will fade away once you move to a warmer environment. Numbness can occur suddenly or progress slowly. Chronic arm numbness generally indicates some level of damage to the nerves. Arm numbness may also be worse at night, which is common for paresthesias in general.

Because numbness in the arm or numbness in general may be a symptom of a disease, disorder or condition, you should talk with your medical professional about any unusual sensations or arm numbness that lasts more than a few minutes.

If you experience arm numbness with paralysis, confusion, arm or hand weakness, or slurred speech, seek immediate medical attention. If your arm numbness is persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern, contact a medical professional.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 25, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Hand/Wrist/Arm Problems. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  2. Muscle function loss. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
  3. Numbness and tingling. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

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