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Numbness in Hands -- Causes and Cures
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May 20, 2013, last updated June 13, 2016
By Alison Turner,  Featured Columnist

6. The Wrong Household Products Could Make Your Hands

Most of us don’t work in perfectly healthy environments.  
Maybe we don’t get enough fresh air or the lighting is
harsh – or, maybe we’re surrounding by toxic chemicals.  
Research out of Mexico finds that an organic solvent called

This compound is used in many ordinary consumer
products including inks, dyes, adhesives, and can also be
an additive in explosives, fuels, and varnish remover.  2-
nitopropane can affect the nervous system of workers.

A form of 2-nitropropane called 2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-
1, 3-diol (Bronopol) is used in detergents, blushers,
cleansing lotions, cleansing preparations, cooling fluids,
creams, eyebrow pencils, formaldehyde releasers,
foundations, hair conditioners, hair dressings, humidifiers,
mascara,  moisturizers, paints, shampoos and textiles.
According to dermatologists, this compound also can cause
skin allergies in some people.


Bronopal has been restricted for use in cosmetics in
Canada. In the US, the FDA granted the right to self-
regulate to companies in the cosmetics industry in 1938,
though many have urged that this position be changed.

For now, you will need to read the labels of any household
products you use to detect the presence of bronopol, if you
are experiencing symptoms.]

In 2012, Sergio Lucio Becerra-Torres with the Physiology
and Pharmacology Department at the Center for
Universidad Autónoma Aguascalientes and other specialists
in Mexico  measured how one kind of organic solvent called
2-nitropropane affects the sciatic nerve of frogs.  

Their results showed a “reversible behavior simulating the
effects of the anesthetics used in medical practice.”  The
team finds this research relevant to studies in workplaces
“in which people are exposed to certain types of organic
solvents,” that find “significant changes” in workers
exposed to these substances on a long term, regular basis.  
These changes include fatigue, “enhanced excitation,”
forgetfulness, headaches, and, yes, hand numbness.

The researchers conducting the study above “strongly
recommend health surveillance of those who are in
constant exposure to organic solvents.”  If you work with
organic solvents it might be worth your while – and your
coworkers’ – to make sure all procedures are up to code.

If Multiple Sclerosis Makes Your Hands Numb, Try
Exercising – with Others.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition in which the body’s
immune system eats away at the protection covering the
nerves.  This results in damaged communication between
the brain, spinal cord, and rest of the body, and can lead to
irreversible nerve deterioration.  Symptoms of multiple
sclerosis include blurry or loss of vision, tremor, electric
shock sensations, slurred speech, fatigue, and tingling,
pain, weakness, or numbness in one or more limbs,  
including the hands.

In 2013, Susan Coote with the University of Limerick and
other researchers in Ireland  gathered information on what
kind of exercise is most helpful to people with multiple
sclerosis.  Over 200 patients with MS were divided into
three different groups of exercise in “weekly community-
based” sessions.  They found that all three kinds of
exercise led to “a statistically significant improvement” on
psychological and physical components, so that they
determine a “positive effect of exercise on the physical
impact of MS and fatigue.”  Furthermore, they found that
the “group nature of the classes may have contributed to
the positive effects seen on the psychological impact of MS.”

For those of us who find working out hard to do, try it with
a group of friends (or strangers) – group workout could
not only get you to work out and enjoy it, but could help
manage your MS symptoms.

Drug Abuse and Numb Hands

It may sound like an anti-drug campaign, but research
shows it’s true: using too many hard drugs could make
your hands go numb.

In 2007, J.J. Payne-James with Forensic Healthcare
Services in London led a team  in an investigation as to why
“some crack-cocaine users develop coarsening changes in
the appearance of their hands after prolonged use of the
drug.”  They noticed that these “changes” happened most
often in females, and included cold hands, “claw-like
curvature of the nails,” and numb hands.  They found that
these signs “[do] not occur in all crack-cocaine users,” and
hypothesize that “those with a vasoreactive circulation” are
more “susceptible” to these symptoms.

While the great majority of us never come anywhere close
to these type of drugs, knowing about the unusual
symptom of numb hands might put you in a better position
to identify and help a loved one who falls prey to addictions.

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