Thank you very much for your question. I am happy to address the issues that you pose, although it is important that you recognize that my impression is based entirely on the information you have provided in your posting and is by no means a replacement for an office visit with a neurologist. Diagnosis is contingent on detailed history and physical exam and as such, the following information should be considered solely for educational purposes.
Hmmm, I need a little bit more information regarding the distribution of your numbness and when the numbness occurs to offer you the best advice, however, I can give you 2 separate diagnoses which you may be experiencing, The first, and most likely, is a common condition known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) which results when the median nerve (a nerve in the arm that supplies the hand) gets compressed/irritated as it passes through a connective tissue sheath at the level of the wrist. Classically, patients with CTS complain of numbness of the thumb, index, and middle fingers, especially during the nighttime; symptoms can sometimes be relieved by shaking out the hand. In some cases, weakness of the thumb may occur which can be helpful in diagnosis. Symptoms may be reproducible with tapping the risk with a reflex hammer.
If the numbness you describe is occurring in the pinky and ring finger, a similar type of condition you may be experiencing is The numbness/tingling in the pinky finger your husband is experiencing is ulnar nerve entrapment. As the ulnar nerve travels down the arm, there are a few areas in particular that it can become entrapped. One common place for this to happen is at the elbow and when this occurs, a "cubital tunnel syndrome" may result. As the nerve travels towards the hand. At the level of the hand, the nerve traverses through a tunnel formed by the hamate and pisiform bones of the hand (AKA Guyon's canal) and it is at this location that the nerve becomes vulnerable to damage, usually in association with a fall or a wrist fracture. If the nerve is caught at the elbow, sometimes pushing on the nerve tunnel at the elbow may reproduce the symptoms.
If all 5 fingers are involved, a more proximal source of nerve injury may be present. Essentially, the nerves of the arm originate from a network known as the brachial plexus. This network is created from nerve roots which come out of the spinal cord. Both the ulnar and median nerve contain components from the C8 and T1 nerve roots. Patients that have arthritis in their backs (i.e. degenerative disc disease or bulging discs) may have impingement on the nerve roots as they exit the spinal column. This, too can cause numbness and tingling in the hands.
In the above scenarios, nerve damage can be further characterized by a needle EMG exam and nerve conduction studies. This problem can sometimes be improved through a surgical procedure which essentially relieves the entrapped nerve. Alternatively, physical therapy has also been proven beneficial.
I know the above is a long-winded answer to your question, but I'm hoping that your pattern of tingling fits into one of the above descriptions. Obviously, my best advice would be to see a neurologist who can examine your hand and determine if there is any weakness (may be subtle) or sensory loss. He or she may opt to conduct an EMG. Thanks for your question, and good luck!
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