Hands with lightning running through them

Tingling Fingers and Dropsy Hands

I grew up being deemed klutzy. Walking into a wall that’s been in the same place for 10 years was a normal occurrence for me. What wasn’t normal was when things mysteriously began dropping out of my hands. It was as if a magical force was taking whatever I was holding and then throwing it to the ground because it could. The more it happened, the worse the outcomes played out in my head--like what if it was MS or brain cancer.

I didn’t understand these tingling fingers and dropsy hands attached to my body. Now, I’m more secure with understanding why my hands and fingers experience numbness and tingling--psoriatic arthritis. Here’s how I try to manage them as best as possible.

When it began

My psoriatic arthritis symptoms intensified around the age of 30 and by 31 they forced me into "early retirement" (aka disability). Recently, I wrote about having sausage fingers and the validation felt when a doctor recognized them clinically and diagnosed my psoriatic arthritis. I didn’t write about the zaps and tingling fingers nor did I write about how I would drop things without feeling like I was going to drop something. This loss of feeling in my hands along with the zapping tingly feeling lasted for close to four years.

It started as a weird radiating feeling going from my forearm into the wrist and down to my ring and middle fingers. Occasionally, my pinky finger would join in. My left hand would feel “asleep.” The weird feeling you get when you’ve sat on your foot the wrong way. The only difference was that your foot would eventually wake up and this feeling rarely went away. I would catch myself at times, hitting my arm or hand into a counter just to make sure I had some feeling going on there. The only time I found relief was after taking an NSAID, but due to Crohn’s, that wasn’t often.

I began to notice a trend, if I sat a desk to read or work on a computer the tingly feeling would be that much worse. One of my doctors referred to it as neuropathy.

The numbness and tingling progressed

Starting on my first biologic didn’t really help this feeling. By the time I moved to the second biologic, it improved for at least a few days out of each treatment cycle. I was taking the wins wherever I could. I once asked my rheumatologist, point blank, if my Crohn’s went into remission would arthritis? She said most likely no. They seem to function separately.

As the years progressed, I learned triggers for the painful neuropathy in my left hand--like travel or working for more than an hour. The same occasionally happened to my right hand, as well. Travel with a heavy bag or rolling suitcase almost assuredly would set off an issue for me.

Today, conferences create the perfect storm for my hands between travel, taking notes and leaning, carrying bags, and posting to social media from my phone. I have to continually reposition how I hold my phone and type to avoid neuropathy. Not to mention avoid dropping the phone before my hands go numb, as well.

How it makes me feel

Frustration, pain, grief, and sometimes a dash of rage also course through my hands. I’m eight years into this, and my brain and hands still do not cooperate as they should.

I’ve tried therapeutic compression gloves. They help when my hands are chilled to the bone. What my hands seem to respond to best are warm moist compresses. My rheumatologist recently recommended a paraffin wax dip system. I haven’t purchased it yet, but I tried one at a conference and enjoyed it. I have no idea why I never purchased one for home.

But better late than never, right?

What helps with numbness and tingling

So, what has helped with the numbness and tingling painful feeling from psoriatic arthritis the most?

The biologic I started in the fall of 2016. It’s so interesting how it all went down because I felt the feeling return to my left hand during the loading dose infusion. I fully expected it to go away almost immediately, but it didn’t. Thankfully, I am a rapid responder to this med. However, I still contend with the neuropathy flare-ups, especially after traveling. I am very grateful that they aren’t nearly as painful as in previous years.

It’s taken quite a few years to improve. One issue I still grapple with is dropping things. I do not have the dexterity or hand strength I once did prior to the great flare-up of 2012. Since I rely on my phone for so much, I use cases with silicone grippers and paracord chains. Those little chains are sometimes your last chance to rescue your phone as it hurtles toward the ground. They are a phone saver!

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