The term 'paresthesia' refers to abnormal sensations such as tingling, numbness, burning, or prickling. It could be a total or partial loss of sensation. Paresthesia could be temporary or chronic. Tingling and numbness can affect any part of the body, but more frequently it is felt in the legs, arms, hands, and the feet. Numbness, including foot numbness, can be caused by several factors, ranging from the reduced supply of blood to the particular area to nerve damage or other underlying health problems. More often than not, it results from poor blood circulation or a pinched nerve in foot. However, it may also be caused by certain medical problems, which need to be treated on time to avoid potential complications.
Contributing Factors for Numbness in Toes and Feet
Some of the common causes of numbness in the extremities are listed below:
➻ When you sit with legs crossed for a long duration, the pressure placed on the nerve causes your legs to fall asleep. The feeling quickly resolves once the pressure is relieved. Sitting/standing in an awkward position for a long period could adversely affect the blood circulation, thereby causing numbness or tingling sensation in the feet.
➻ Living in colder regions could put one at a risk of developing Raynaud's syndrome. This condition might run in the family. People above the age of 30 years, especially women, are susceptible. This is a rare disorder of the blood vessels, wherein the blood vessels in the fingers or toes become narrow due to exposure to cold or stress. Due to poor blood circulation, the fingers or toes become pale or blue. The skin turns red and a tingling sensation is experienced when the blood flow becomes normal.
➻ Bone spurs or herniated disc in the lumbar region could the contributing factors for a pinched nerve. Inflammation or compression of the sciatic nerve could also cause numbness of leg, feet, and/or toes.
➻ Peripheral neuropathy is characterized by damage to the peripheral nerves. It could occur due to trauma, repetitive stress, exposure to toxins, or certain medical conditions. For instance, diabetic neuropathy is a complication of diabetes, wherein the peripheral nerves get damaged, thereby leading to symptoms such as numbness in legs and the feet.
➻ Paresthesia could even be associated with infections, trauma or injury, inflammation, and deficiency of certain vitamins.
➻ Numbness in feet, especially one that is frequently encountered while running can be caused by tarsal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel is located inside the ankle, within which three tendons, veins, an artery, and the tibial nerve can be found. Numbness in the soles of the feet can be caused by the compression of the tibial nerves of the ankles.
➻ Numbness could also be experienced due to wearing tight or ill-fitting footwear, worn out shoes, or shoes that cannot absorb enough shock.
Apart from these, some other possible causes of numbness include pregnancy, deficiency of vitamin B 12, abnormal levels of calcium, sodium, and potassium in the body, Lyme disease, kidney diseases, chemotherapy treatment, radiation therapy, high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption, and multiple sclerosis.
Usually, mild and occasional numbness is not associated with any major health problem. However, if it occurs frequently and persists for a long time, then it is better to get the condition properly evaluated to rule out the possibility of any serious disease. The treatment would vary, depending on the underlying cause. Analysis of the family history, patient's medical history, physical examination, and other diagnostic tests can help identify the exact cause.
If it is caused by an underlying health problem, then it can be managed by treating that particular disease. For example, foot numbness caused by diabetic neuropathy can be controlled by taking appropriate medications for regulating the blood glucose level. Similarly, vitamin deficiency can be treated by taking vitamin supplements, and following a healthy and nutritious diet. Sometimes, performing exercises can also help alleviate this problem by improving blood circulation. Also, make sure that you wear good-quality shoes that fit you properly, and are comfortable. Wear the right kind of shoes that provide adequate support to the feet.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.