Numbness refers to the partial or complete loss of sensation. It can be a symptom of nervous system malfunction.
People with numbness may be unable to feel light touch, pain, temperature, or vibration or to know where parts of their body are (position sense). When people do not know where parts of their body are, they have problems with balance and coordination.
Many people mistakenly use the term numbness when they have abnormal sensations such as tingling, prickling, or a pins-and-needles sensation or when a limb feels weak or is paralyzed—perhaps partly because people with numbness often also have such abnormal sensations and symptoms. The presence of other symptoms depends on what is causing numbness.
If numbness has been present a long time, particularly in the feet, it can lead to other problems. People may have difficulty walking and driving and may be more likely to fall. They may not notice infections, foot sores (ulcers), and injuries because they cannot sense pain as well. In such cases, treatment may be delayed.