Most people have experienced the feeling of a limb “falling asleep,” a numb sensation caused by reduced blood flow or pressure on the nerves. Temporary numbness in the feet and legs may be caused by sitting for too long, crossing the legs for extended periods, or holding an uncomfortable position for several minutes. While feeling is usually restored when a person changes position, long-lasting or unexplained numbness in the feet could be due to an underlying medical condition.
Conditions That May Cause Numbness in the Feet and Toes
The lower limbs have a vast network of nerves to carry information to the brain, as well as numerous blood vessels to circulate oxygen throughout the feet and legs. Interruptions in one (or both) of these systems are the most common cause of chronic tingling, burning, itching, numbness, or a feeling of “pins and needles” under the skin.
Inability to feel the foot or toes is typically caused by:
- Injuries. Any injury that disrupts the nerve connections between the feet and the brain may affect feeling in the legs. A spinal cord injury can cause an inability to feel any part of the body below the waist, while an injury to the sciatic nerve (at the back of the leg) may cause numbness or tingling in the legs or feet.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome. The primary nerve in the foot runs through a narrow tunnel between the ankle bone and hard, fibrous tissue. If the foot is damaged by overuse, a patient may develop tarsal tunnel syndrome—a compression of the nerve that results in numbness, tingling, or shooting pain in the heels and feet.
- Diabetes. People who have diabetes may develop a condition known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a numbness or stinging pain in the feet due to decreased circulation in the extremities.
If you are experiencing numbness in your feet and toes, the foot and ankle specialists at Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry are here to help. Call our office today at (301) 515-3338 or fill out our contact form to get started.