Other Causes of Tingling Fingers
TMJ is not the first thing most doctors think of when you report tingling in your fingers. Instead, your doctor will likely want to eliminate other possible causes first, such as:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Ulnar nerve palsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Reynaud’s disease
- Vascular disease
- Alcohol abuse
- No cause
Below are brief descriptions of some of these causes of tingling and numbness, including how to tell them apart from TMJ-related numbness and tingling.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is common in people who overwork their fingers, especially if they experience repeated vibrations. In this condition, the nerves get irritated as they pass through the small opening that leads from your arm to your hand, called the carpal tunnel. The irritation causes the nerves to swell. In the small space, swelling puts pressure on the nerves, leading to tingling and numbness.
Typically, carpal tunnel syndrome affects your thumb through your ring finger, not your pinky finger. TMJ-related numbness often affects your pinky and ring finger.
Diabetes can lead to tingling and numbness because it causes nerve damage, called neuropathy.
Suspect this cause if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or have one or more risk factors for diabetes. In addition, diabetic neuropathy is likely to affect your feet before your hands, although not always.
Ulnar Nerve Palsy
Ulnar nerve palsy, also called ulnar nerve entrapment, occurs when the ulnar nerve is being trapped and crushed. This most often occurs at the elbow and tends to be worse when you have your elbow flexed.
This causes tingling and numbness in your ring and pinky fingers. It can also cause tingling or numbness in the palm opposite the thumb.
Multiple sclerosis can be an autoimmune disorder in which your body attacks your nerves, leading to scarring and dysfunction.
Although tingling and numbness are among the first symptoms, you might also experience vision symptoms because the optic nerve is likely one of the first affected.
Reynaud’s disease (also called Reynaud’s phenomenon) occurs when blood vessels in your hand constrict when they get cold or if you’re stressed. This leads to tingling and numbness that passes when your hand warms.
Vascular diseases can restrict blood flow to your extremities, causing a sensation of tingling and numbness.
If this is the cause of your paresthesia, you are likely to feel tingling in your feet first.
Our nerves depend on a steady supply of nutrients, and, unfortunately, many of us don’t get all the nutrients we need for healthy nerve function. Some common vitamin deficiencies that can lead to tingling in the hands include vitamin E, B1, B3 (niacin), B6, and B12 are all vital for nerve function.
Vitamin deficiencies that cause nerve damage are common in alcoholics, so some people use a separate category of alcoholic neuropathy.
Heavy alcohol use can also lead to nerve damage that results in tingling and numbness in your extremities.
You might also experience pain in your limbs, have muscle weakness, or get spasms.
The most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke, occurs when arterial plaque breaks off in your arteries, traveling to the brain. There it blocks the flow of blood to your brain, which may require rapid treatment to avoid permanent brain damage.
Vision problems and cognitive difficulties are also good ways to distinguish stroke from other paresthesia causes. However, if you have any suspicion paresthesia might be a stroke, seek professional care because the possible consequences are dire.
Unfortunately, about 30% of cases of numbness or tingling in the hands can’t be linked to any definitive cause.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no cause, but it’s possible that the cause just can’t be isolated or can’t be linked to its symptoms. Because doctors don’t understand TMJ, you should consult with a TMJ dentist if your doctor gives you this answer.