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Arm numbness Assessment Questionnaire

Questions Your Doctor May Ask - and Why!

During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Arm numbness. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.

Create your printable checklist by answering questions that your doctor may ask below:

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  1. How long have you noticed numbness in your arm?

    Why: to establish if acute or chronic.

  2. What areas of the arm are affected by the numbness?

    Why: E.g. forearm, elbow, shoulder - can help determine which nerves are affected.

  3. Are both arms affected and is it symmetrical?

    Why: helps determine which nerves are affected e.g. peripheral neuropathy is symmetrical compared with individual nerve or nerve root disease which should be suspected if sensory loss is asymmetrical or confined to one limb.

  4. Is the hand also affected by the numbness?

    Why: helps determine which nerves are affected.

  5. Is there a time of day when arm numbness is worse?

    Why: can help determine the cause of arm numbness e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome is usually worse at night.

  6. Relieving factors?

    Why: helps determine the cause of arm numbness e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms may be relieved by dangling the arm over the side of the bed.

  7. History of trauma?

    Why: e.g. whiplash injury - can determine possible cause of numbness , Brachial plexus injury.

  8. Past medical history?

    Why: diabetes and chronic renal failure can be a cause of peripheral neuropathy.

  9. Dietary history?

    Why: Vitamin B12 deficiency can be a cause of peripheral neuropathy.

  10. Medications?

    Why: some medications can cause peripheral neuropathy e.g. amiodarone , phenytoin, nitrofurantoin.

  11. Occupational history?

    Why: certain occupations requiring repetitive motions are at risk of causing work-induced overuse disorders e.g. process and meat workers are at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome due to rapid finger and wrist movement.

  12. Sexually transmitted disease history?

    Why: Tabes dorsalis of syphilis may be cause.

  13. Alcohol history?

    Why: can be a cause of peripheral neuropathy.

  14. When did you first notice that you had some arm numbness?

    Why: The period of time which you have experienced numbness for can the type of condition which is causing it. For example, numbness which has been present for some time may be caused by Diabetes, whereas that which is of relatively new onset may be the result of trauma to a nerve (Sensory Nerve Transection).

  15. Where exactly do you have the arm numbness?

    Why: Different areas on numbness on your arm can correspond with different causes, and different nerve problems.

  16. What occurred leading up to when you noticed the numbness?

    Why: The exact sequence of events leading up to you noticing the numbness may be important in determining its cause.

  17. Do you feel the numbness anywhere else?

    Why: It is possible that whatever is causing the numbness in your arm is also causing numbness in other areas as well.

  18. Can you describe the numbness for me?

    Why: To describe what "numbness" feels like may sound unnecessary and downright strange, however the concept of numbness means a great many different things to different people. Your description may assist your Health professional to understand exactly what you are experiencing and so formulate an appropriate management strategy.

  19. Have you ever experienced anything like this before?

    Why: Some condition which can result in arm numbness or areas of numbness can be repetitive.

  20. Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus?

    Why: Diabetes is an important cause of arm numbness, and the occurrence of areas of diminished sensation.

  21. Has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with diabetes?

    Why: If anyone in your family has ever been diagnosed with diabetes then this can increase your risk of having it as well. There is more than one type of diabetes, and they all tend to have a inheritable genetic component to them.

  22. Have you ever been tested for diabetes?

    Why: It is estimated that up to a third of those with diabetes do not know that they have it. Testing for diabetes is important as it can help with its management and the prevention of such things as diabetic neuropathy, mononeuritis multiplex and other disorders which can result in arm numbness.

  23. Have you recently suffered any trauma, cuts, bruises or knocks?

    Why: A minor injury can be the cause for an area of arm numbness, and it is important for you to tell your Health Professional if you have experienced any recent minor trauma.

  24. Have you ever been in an area where leprosy is endemic?

    Why: Leprosy can result in sensory deficits, including on the arms. It can have a long incubation period of up to several years, so it is important that you report all travel that you have undertaken within the past decade.

  25. Have you noticed any unusual skin lesions, or any problems with your eyes/eyesight?

    Why: As well as producing problems with some of your sensory nerves, leprosy can cause you to have some particular skin lesions and eye complaints.

  26. Have you noticed any red, raised, painful skin lesions (Erythema Nodosum)?

    Why: Erythema Nodosum is a skin condition which can be the result of many conditions, however if you are also suffering from an area of arm numbness then it may indicate leprosy or sarcoidosis.

  27. Have you had any sore joints recently?

    Why: Polyarthralgia can be experienced with sarcoidosis, and its presence along with arm numbness would increase the chance that you have that condition.

  28. Have you ever had a chest x-ray?

    Why: Sarcoidosis is often diagnosed on a chest x-ray/radiograph. If you have had any of these performed in the past then it may be important for you to tell your Health Professional about them so that they may be vigilant in finding any changes indicative of sarcoidosis.

  29. Have you ever been diagnosed with sarcoidosis?

    Why: As this is a condition which may primarily affect your respiratory system, it may not be immediately obvious to you that your arm numbness is also as a result of it.

  30. Have you recently experienced any fever, abdominal pain, weight loss, joint pains (arthralgia), or felt unwell (malaise)?

    Why: Polyarteritis Nodosa is a condition of your blood vessels which can cause any and/or all of these symptoms, along with areas of numbness.

  31. Have you noticed any blood in your urine (hematuria), any change in colour of your urine, or a decrease in the amount of urine that you are passing (renal failure)?

    Why: Polyarteritis Nodosa can particularly cause acute kidney dysfunction, and so result in changes in the volume or color of the urine that you are passing. This condition can also result in areas of numbness.

  32. Have you ever had hepatitis?

    Why: A component of the hepatitis B virus has been shown to be associated with Polyarteritis Nodosa, which can also cause problems with sensation.

  33. Have you lost weight (weight loss) recently?

    Why: Many different types of cancer can cause affects on a wide variety of body systems (Paraneoplastic Syndrome) other than those that they are directly involved with. Two such effects can be weight loss and abnormal/decreased sensation in an area.

  34. Is there anything else that is concerning you?

    Why: You may be experiencing arm numbness as a result of another seemingly unrelated and potentially undiagnosed condition. If you have experienced any other symptoms, or have any other concerns that your doctor has not already canvassed with you then it is important that you mention them.

  35. Have you been using any crutches, or used anything which has placed extra pressure in your armpit/axilla?

    Why: One of the major nerves of the arm can be affected by extra pressure in the arm pit. This can result in an area of arm numbness, or dysfunction of some of the arm muscles.

  36. Have you recently fallen asleep in a chair or laid in a single position for an extended period of time?

    Why: Sometimes when one falls asleep in a chair you may hold your arm in such a way (over the back of the chair) that it can cause dysfunction or one of the major arm nerves. This can also occur if you have laid or fallen asleep on a hard surface for an extended period of time; this tends to occur more with alcohol or substance intoxication.

  37. Have you recently suffered any back pain or injuries?

    Why: Arm numbness can also be as a result of dysfunction of a segment of the spine, or of the nerves as they come off of it.

  38. Have you ever been diagnosed with chronic renal failure?

    Why: This condition can over an extended period of time cause sensory dysfunction (numbness) in your peripheries (peripheral neuropathy).

  39. Have you ever been diagnosed with any thyroid problems or disease?

    Why: Hypothyroidism or decreased release of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland, can result in peripheral neuropathy.

  40. Have you ever suffered any liver disease?

    Why: Liver failure can cause Peripheral Neuropathy and arm numbness.

  41. Has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with porphyria?

    Why: This is a relatively rare condition which can be genetically inherited, and which can cause peripheral neuropathy.

  42. Have you ever been diagnosed with amyloidosis, lymphoma/leukaemia, paraproteinemia, multiple myeloma, any immune system conditions, or any blood disorders?

    Why: These are all diseases which can cause sensory deficits and arm numbness by the abnormal production of some proteins within the blood. Individually, they are not very common and are primarily diagnosed by blood tests and clinical suspicion given relatively vague other symptoms (fatigue, weight loss, etc.).

  43. Are you currently taking any regular medications?

    Why: There are some medications (isoniazid, vincristine, phenytoin) which can result in peripheral neuropathy and arm numbness.

  44. Have you ever been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or regularly experience a dry mouth (xerostomia) or dry eyes (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) (Sjogren's Syndrome)?

    Why: These are connective tissue conditions which can also cause diminished arm sensation and peripheral neuropathy.

  45. Does anyone else in your family experience similar problems with sensation, have an unusual way of walking, or have any of them been diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia or Charcot Marie Tooth Syndrome?

    Why: There are some conditions such as the two more common and better described ones specifically mentioned here, which can cause peripheral neuropathy and some problems with motor function, e.g. walking. Frequently these conditions are undiagnosed and you may simply recall that a distant relative had a "funny walk".

  46. Can you tell me a bit about your diet?

    Why: There are some specific dietary deficiencies which can result in peripheral neuropathy. These can include Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin E, Pyridoxine and Thiamine. Deficiencies of some of these vitamins can also be caused by things such as biliary disease/hepatic disease, malabsorption, medications, and alcoholism.

  47. Have you recently had any surgery, vaccinations or infections of any kind?

    Why: Guillain Barre Syndrome is a rare and unusual acute condition which causes dysfunction of both sensory and motor nerves. It can occur without any identifiable cause or specific recent history (40%); however recent surgery, vaccinations and infections have been retrospectively shown to be common preceding events.

  48. Are you having any difficulties breathing?

    Why: Some conditions such as Guillain Barre Syndrome can cause sensory dysfunction as well as problems with the muscles which you use to breath. Difficulties with breathing can be a medical emergency.

  49. Have you noticed any problems or difficulties with any of your muscles, or with any particular types of movement?

    Why: Some conditions can affect both sensory and motor nerves, and you may have noticed muscle or movement problems as well as your arm numbness. Guillain Barre Syndrome is an example of one such condition.

  50. Do you smoke cigarettes, have you noticed any change in your voice, had any pain in your arm/shoulder, or any change with one of your eyes/eyelids?

    Why: Cigarette smoking predisposes to Lung Cancer. Some types of lung cancer can cause dysfunction of the nerves which supply your arm, and so may cause arm weakness, arm numbness, arm pain, or shoulder pain. Some of the nerves which influence your "voice box" and the production of speech are very close to these arm nerves, and so you may notice a change in your voice (hoarseness) Some of the nerves which control your eyes and eyelids may also be affected, and may result in a syndrome (Horner's Syndrome) which includes pupil constriction (miosis), a lack of sweating on your forehead (anhydrosis), a drooping eyelid (ptosis) and a "sunken" eye (enophthalmos).

  51. Arm pain?

    Why: if also pain in the involved extremity this usually suggests herniated cervical disc , spinal cord tumor or cervical spondylosis. Other conditions to consider are brachial plexus neuropathy, thoracic outlet syndrome, cervical rib, Pancoast's tumour, Raynaud's disease, sympathetic dystrophy or various entrapment syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow.

  52. Arm weakness?
  53. Neck pain?
  54. Are there any other areas of the body which are numb?

    Why: e.g. numbness of the face would suggest a diagnosis of cerebrovascular disease, a mass in the brain, migraine or multiple sclerosis.

  55. Headaches?

    Why: may suggest migraine or mass in brain.

  56. Symptoms of stroke?
  57. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Arm numbness:

The following list of conditions have 'Arm numbness' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Arm numbness or choose View All.

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Conditions listing medical complications: Arm numbness:

The following list of medical conditions have 'Arm numbness' or similar listed as a medical complication in our database.


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