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Numb finger, cold hands and body. Family history of heart problems and diabetes. Reason?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2009
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The tip of my left middle finger has gone numb the last few days (but comes back after a while); I have cold hands anyway, but not Reynaud's. And cold. That's wierd, but this morning my whole body got chilled, and the AC was on 73, so I got nervous. I'm in excellent shape. Age 58. Run a lot. (Want to run today but not sure if I should). I take lots of vitamins. Great diet - vegan. No other health problems. Had complete heart work up last year with EEG and MRI when I overreacted to a blood pressure monitor and was determined to be fine by a cardiologist. But my mother died of undisclosed heart problems and my father had diabetes/stroke. Thank you.
Posted Sun, 25 Aug 2013 in Medicines and Side Effects
Answered by Dr. Chobufo Ditah 1 hour later
Hi and thank you so much for this query.

I am sorry to hear about the intermittent loss of sensation on the tip of your left middle finger. I understand your worries and they are genuine. No one wakes up observing a change in her system and stays indifferent. Pursuing answers and getting solutions or reassurance is always a good idea.

Sensation is thanks to the nerves in our body. The nerve fibres which supply the first 3 and a half finger counting from the thumb are the same.So if the others are not affected, then the problem is most likely not at the level of the main nerve which is the median nerve. Nerves need good body temperatures to function normally. As the temperatures drops, the transmission of stimuli significantly drops to levels that can approach zero. This explain the poor sensation we all have in cold weather.

From the information you have provided, these are my thoughts:
1. it is a local problem
2. Most likely caused by low body temperature at the level of this part of the finger.
3. If you should try to warm it up, most likely the sensations would return sooner than later.
4. Don't freak out. If it should be anything, then not definitely at this point.

The fact that your parents suffered with heart problems and diabetes puts you at slightly higher risk than the rest of the population. This doesn't mean that you will for sure develop these diseases but requires you to be prudent and /proactive.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle coupled with regular follow ups will permit you to prevent these conditions or pick the up early so that timely and adequate management can be provided. This will greatly prevent and reduce the gravity of any complications. I can see you have started doing all these as your diet, exercise level and heart checkups suggest. Congrats and do keep up.

I am concerned that your fears about illnesses related to what your parents have are not helping you. The sudden cold sensation you felt this morning unless it becomes repetitive and bothersome should not make you stop from doing exercise. feel free and tell yourself you are well prepared to face any challenges.

I hope you find this helpful and informative and also addresses your query fully. If there are more specific questions related to this that I did not provide answers to, please ask follow up questions and I will address them.

I wish you well and the best of health.
Once more, thanks for this opportunity.
Dr. Ditah, MD
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Numb finger, cold hands and body. Family history of heart problems and diabetes. Reason? 25 hours later
Could this be a Vitamin D or B12 deficiency, two that a vegan might have?

Could it be carpal tunnel syndrome?

Answered by Dr. Chobufo Ditah 39 minutes later
Hi and thank you for these follow up questions.

The major source of VitD is synthesized in the body from cholesterol. This happens when the body is exposed to sunlight. It is rarely deficient, even in vegans unless they are rarely exposed to sunlight. It mainly manifest as signs of low calcium in the body. This is likely not it.

B12 deficiency is unlikely here. It presents with signs of peripheral neuropathy, anaemia(megaloblastic) and dementia. This is far from it. Also, unless you have a real problem with its metabolism it rarely occurs because the body has at any time stores that can be used for as long as 3-4years. These symptoms are local and suggest little about systemic causes.

Carpal Tunnel syndrome: The distribution of this is not very suggestive. if it were CTS, then it should still be in a very early stage and I cannot make this call at this time. CTS is provoked by applying pressure at the level of the wrist and not by cold temperatures. CTS affects the 3 and 1/2 fingers i mentioned above and will not be so selective for a specific finger and only at the tip.

Hope you find the above information helpful. If there is something more you wish to know about related to this query, please feel free to ask me.
Thanks and wish you well.
Dr. Ditah, MD

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Numb finger, cold hands and body. Family history of heart problems and diabetes. Reason? 17 hours later
Thanks. I have poor circulation any way in my hands (as I said, always cold, and immediately freeze if I go skiing or it's below 32) and feet... would accupuncture help? Could this be the problem, poor circulation? Then why just my middle finger?

Fortunately, it has gone away, for now. I took 5,000 mg of Vitamin D yesterday, and 7,000 day before, and more B12, and now see that this isn't going to help.
Answered by Dr. Chobufo Ditah 58 minutes later
Thanks for this further information.

when it gets cold, the blood vessels constrict to conserve the body's heat. This is the exact reason why we often start feeling numbness from the most distal parts of our body like toes, ears, finger tips etc. Blood vessels are not all affected to the same extend. If maybe the vessels of the middle finger is more susceptible to cold temperatures, then that may be the reason. Please, I am also happy it has gone away. Be ralaxed.

Acupuncture will not help. However, it will offer you some psychological relief. If you believe in it, it will help and if you do not, it will not.

Vitamins will not kill you unless you continue to take them in excess. Don't feel like it was a waste. It is very good as it also guards against osteoporosis as we all age.

Hope these help. Wish you well.
Dr. Ditah, MD
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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