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Toe Numbness and Tingling: Common Causes and More

Experiencing toe numbness and tingling? Here’s everything you need to know, including the most common causes and when to seek medical help.

Slight toe tingling might not seem like a bad thing, but toe numbness and tingling (also referred to as paresthesia of the toes) can be worrisome.

Toe numbness occurs when the sensation in your toes is affected. It may also include a complete absence of feeling (either your feet or the ground underneath you), toe tingling, or even a burning sensation. You might even experience tingling up in your legs or in your toes as sensation returns and the numbness goes away. Toe numbness can also make walking difficult or even painful.

Here’s everything you need to know about toe numbness and tingling, including common causes, when you should seek help and common treatment options.

The Most Common Causes of Toe Numbness and Tingling

Toe numbness and a feet tingling sensation could be a temporary or a chronic symptom. Often you may experience it in only one foot or both – depending on the cause. Numbness of the toes is usually a result of conditions that affect the nerves and/or blood vessels supplying the foot.

The foot is composed of many different nerves and small blood vessels that begin higher up in the leg and branch off in various directions to supply blood flow and sensation throughout the foot – because of this toe numbness causes are varied and divided into these categories:

  • Circulatory causes: conditions that cause narrowing of blood vessels can reduce blood flow to the limbs and cause sensation loss.
  • Systemic diseases:
    • Metabolic: dysfunction in day-to-day body processes – like diabetes.
    • Hereditary: some uncommon inherited disorders like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
  • Environmental causes:
    • Toxins: for instance, exposure to heavy metals like lead or substance abuse like alcohol.
    • Vitamin imbalance: vitamin deficiencies or overexposure to certain vitamins can cause numbness or tingling in the toes.
    • Trauma: any situation where the foot or leg is crushed or damaged – including wearing shoes that are too tight.
  • Inflammatory causes:
    • Autoimmune: conditions like multiple sclerosis and lupus are examples of autoimmune diseases that affect nerves.
    • Infections: bacterial infections like Lyme disease and multiple viral infections like shingles can cause inflammation and nerve injury.

Source: Priscilla Du Preez

The most common toe numbness and tingling conditions include:

Sciatica

A general term that describes any shooting leg pain that starts at the spine and travels down the outside of the leg. Also referred to as a pinched nerve, lumbar radiculopathy, sciatic neuritis, or sciatic neuropathy.

Most commonly caused by a herniated or “slipped” disc in the lower spine. Which is when some of the soft cushioning material in the disc has been forced outward and is pressing on a nerve root.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space located on the inside of the ankle, right next to the ankle bones. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression or squeezing on the posterior tibial nerve. In this case, you will need to see an orthopedic surgeon.

Morton Neuroma

Also known as Morton’s neuroma, is a condition that occurs when the fibrous tissue in the ball of the foot thickens. Usually caused by years of trauma, irritation, and/or compression to the feet. High-heeled shoes are often to blame, and the condition is often seen in women over 45. It’s a condition that won’t heal on its own and can lead to chronic foot pain.

Pes Cavus

Pes cavus is a high arch of the foot that doesn’t flatten with weight bearing and this can be painful.

Low Calcium Levels

Hypocalcemia is when there’s not enough calcium in the blood. Calcium is a mineral contained in the blood and aids the heart and other muscles to function optimally. Low levels of calcium can cause bones to become brittle and fracture easily. Parathyroid issues and vitamin D deficiency are common causes of this condition.

Folate Deficiency

Folic acid or folate is a vitamin that’s needed to make new cells in the body, including red blood cells which carry oxygen through the bloodstream to various tissues in the body. When there’s not enough folic acid in the body, this deficiency can lead to symptoms like low energy, faintness, and tiredness.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Chronic idiopathic peripheral neuropathy is a condition that refers to the feeling of toe numbness and tingling. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. It’s most often found in people over 60.

Source: Louis Hansel

Feet Tingling Sensation and Numbness: When to Seek Help

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience toe numbness and tingling with any of these symptoms:

  • Facial drooping
  • Inability to think or speak clearly
  • Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
  • Loss of balance
  • Muscle weakness
  • Toe numbness that occurs after recent head trauma
  • Sudden loss of sensation or numbness on one side of your body
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Tremors, jerking, or twitching movements

If you experience frequent, persistent bouts of toe numbness and tingling, schedule an appointment with your doctor to find out the exact cause so you can get appropriate treatment.

Toe Numbness Treatment Options

Depending on what’s causing your toe numbness and tingling, your doctor will advise on treatment options. Your doctor may first suggest lifestyle changes like:

  • Eating a balanced diet that ensures all essential vitamins
  • Exercising regularly
  • Medication to relax blood vessels
  • Anticonvulsants to combat nerve pain
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery

People who suffer from chronic foot numbness should also have routine foot examinations and practice excellent foot hygiene.



Toe Numbness and Tingling FAQs

Can toe numbness be serious?

No. But if coupled with symptoms like facial drooping or severe headache it could indicate something life-threatening. Numbness or tingling in the toes typically isn’t a medical emergency. But you should get an evaluation if you experience severe changes in feeling.

How long does toe numbness generally last?

That depends on the cause. If the toe numbness is caused by ill-fitting shoes or a toe injury, the symptom is usually something that will go away on its own. But chronic toe numbness that’s not caused by a known acute concern may indicate underlying health issues like diabetes, blood disorders, or other conditions.

Which doctors treat toe numbness and tingling?

That depends on the cause. If your GP is concerned about nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy then they will likely refer you to a neurologist. If it’s a bone-related condition, then an orthopedic surgeon will help you.

Can toe numbness become a permanent issue?

It depends on what’s causing the toe numbness. If it’s caused by something temporary then your toe numbness will likely go away, but if you have a chronic condition, it may become a chronic symptom.

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Jenny Cohen Drefler

Jenny Cohen Derfler

Air Dr CEO & Co-Founder

Jenny is the CEO and one of the Co-Founders at Air Doctor. She spent more than 20 years at Intel, most recently as general manager of its manufacturing facility in Israel and before that in various engineering and manufacturing roles in Silicon Valley. Air Doctor is her second startup having previously founded electric vehicle company ElectRoad.