Just about everybody experiences numbness and tingling in a foot every once in a while. Simply sitting with your legs crossed for too long can cause one of your feet to go numb. This problem usually goes away. If it doesn’t, there’s reason for concern. In some instances, numbness and tingling in the feet can be a sign of a nerve issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
First, you need to determine …
Is Your Foot Just “Asleep,” or is Something Else Going On?
Temporary numbness and tingling is usually nothing more than a case of your foot “going to sleep.” A nerve has become compressed, usually due to an awkward sitting position. Getting up and moving around a bit releases the pressure on the nerve, and sensations return. You might experience a slight “pins and needles” sensation, but generally, everything is back to normal.1
Sometimes, though, the cause of this sensation is more serious. These are just some of the potential reasons for numbness and tingling:
Drinking too much alcohol can cause nerve damage in your limbs, including your foot. This is known as alcoholic neuropathy. In order for your nerves to work properly, they need nutrients, such as vitamins E, B12, and B6. A lack of these nutrients can spread alcoholic neuropathy throughout the body. Thankfully, though, quitting drinking could help restore those nutrients and stop the condition from spreading. In some instances, however, the damage may be permanent.2
People who have issues with their blood sugar levels may develop peripheral neuropathy – a condition which affects not only the feet, but also the hands. The severity of peripheral neuropathy symptoms will often depend on the type of nerve damage that has occurred. In addition to numbness and tingling, peripheral neuropathy sufferers may also experience digestive issues, urinary tract, and even heart problems. Other causes of peripheral neuropathy include kidney failure and alcoholism. Peripheral neuropathy can also, in some instances, be a side effect of chemotherapy treatment.3
This is a condition caused by compression of the spinal nerve. The compression usually occurs due to enlarged facet joints that are a part of the spinal column. Spinal stenosis strikes elderly people most often, but it can happen at any age. Symptoms include not only numbness and tingling, but also weakness and pain in the legs. Symptoms of spinal stenosis may subside when you lean forward, because this helps to take pressure off of the nerve.4
Bunions are painful, and they can also result in numbness and tingling in your foot. Characterized by a bony bump at the bottom of the big toe, a bunion can lead to not only deformed toes, but also burning and swelling. Risk factors include ill-fitting shoes, standing for extended periods of time, age, flat feet, and high arches.5
Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
Peripheral artery disease, or PVD, is a narrowing of the arteries near the heart and brain. Obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are some of the contributing factors. In addition to foot numbness, other symptoms include slow healing of wounds, ulcers, weakness, and even hair loss.6
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
GBS occurs when the immune system attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms of GBS include tingling and numbness in the legs and feet, as well as weakness. This condition is progressive, meaning symptoms become worse as it progresses. Most people will recover from GBS, although it can lead to continued weakness. GBS is not contagious, but scientists don’t know exactly why it occurs.7
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
MS affects the nervous system by damaging the protective material, known as the myelin sheath, that surrounds nerve cells. The damage caused by MS makes it difficult for the brain and the body to communicate with each other. As a result, sufferers will not only experience numbness and tingling but also muscle weakness, difficulty seeing, coordination and balance issues, and problems with memory and thinking.8
It’s hard to believe that something as small as a tick can lead to something as severe as Lyme disease, but it’s the truth. When someone suffers a bite from a tick infected with a harmful strain of bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi, that can set off a devastating chain reaction. Symptoms include numbness and tingling in the extremities, including the feet, as well as fever, fatigue, and headache. If not treated, Lyme disease can result in irregular heartbeat, arthritis, nerve pain, short-term memory problems, and facial paralysis.9
If you have ever had chickenpox, the virus that caused it is still in your body. This virus, known as the varicella-zoster virus, can ultimately cause shingles as well. Symptoms include tingling (throughout the body, but also in the feet), burning, and itching – usually on one side of the body. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition. Some people experience shingles pain for weeks, while others will experience symptoms for months or, in some cases, even years.10
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are a number of potential causes for numbness and tingling in your foot. If you have this problem and it lingers, see a doctor.
Don’t ignore sustained numbness and tingling.
The faster you receive medical help, the faster you’ll get a diagnosis – and the help you need to get back on track as quickly as possible.