Why Are My Feet Numb? | ReBuilder Medical

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Why Are My Feet Numb?


numb causes

Last month, we covered the different causes of numbness in your hands.  But what if your feet go numb?  While there is some crossover in the conditions that cause numb hands and feet, there are several conditions that only affect your lower extremities.  Below, we've compiled a list of conditions that can cause numbness in your feet.  Please remember, this is not intended as a basis for diagnosis or a substitute for medical advice.  We just want to give you a starting point if you wish to begin your own research.


Brain and nervous system conditions

  • Cervical spondylosis: age-related wear and tear to the spinal disks in your neck.  It's very common, affecting about 85% of people over 60 years of age.
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome: a rare disorder where your immune system attacks your nerves, damaging the myelin sheath.  Symptoms of weakness, tingling, or numbness typically begin in the hands and feet, then quickly spread throughout the body.
  • Herniated disk: when the interior of a spinal disk begins pushing out through a tear in its exterior.  This typically occurs in the lower back, causing pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.
  • Migraine with Aura: a reoccurring headache that follow bouts of sensory impairment.  These sensory impairments usually begin within an hour of the following headache.  Visual symptoms include blind spots, flashes of light, and vision loss.  Other symptoms include numbness, difficulty speaking, and muscles weakness.
  • Morton’s neuroma: a thickening of the tissue around a nerve, typically affecting the ball of the foot between the third and fourth toes.  Often, you may feel as if you’re standing on a pebble in your shoe or a fold in your sock, though numbness in your toes is also common.  It’s been linked to wearing high-heeled or tight shoes.
  • Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system: a group of uncommon disorders that develop in people with cancer, caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking parts of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, or muscles.  Symptoms often begin showing before a patient is even diagnosed with cancer.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: a result of damage to the peripheral nerves, located outside the brain and spinal cord.  Symptoms often include numbness, weakness, and pain.  It can also affect other areas of the body and other body functions including digestion, urination, and circulation.
  • Pinched nerve: can occur anywhere in the body when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by the surrounding bone, cartilage, muscles, or tendons.  Symptoms may become worse during sleep.
  • Sciatica: irritation of the sciatic nerve (the longest nerve in the body, stretching from the spinal cord and down each leg) that causes pain, weakness, burning, or numbness in your back, buttocks, and legs.
  • Spinal cord injury: damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal resulting in weakness, impaired sensation, and decreased body functions below the injury site.
  • Spinal cord tumor: a mass that develops within the spinal canal or the spinal bones.  Back pain is a common early sign, followed by numbness, loss of bowel control, and difficulty walking.
  • Stroke: when blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced, starving cells of oxygen and nutrients.  Symptoms typically include numbness in the face or extremities, trouble speaking, headache, loss of balance, and vision impairment.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA): also known as a ministroke, a TIA is a temporary period of stroke symptoms (vertigo, blindness, numbness, slurred speech, etc) that typically resolve within minutes.  However, a TIA can be an early indicator of an actual stroke (33% of patients experience a stroke within a year of a TIA).
  • Transverse myelitis: inflammation on both sides of the spinal cord, caused by infections or immune system disorders.  This interrupts the signals sent between the spinal cord and the rest of the body, leading to pain, muscle weakness, sensory problems, paralysis, and bladder/bowel dysfunction.

blood sugar test

Chronic conditions

  • Acute porphyria: a group of inherited disorders that cause an overproduction of porphyrins and affects the nervous system.  Attacks can last days or weeks, with symptoms slowing improving over time.  Symptoms include, but are not limited to, nausea, numbness, urination problems, and high blood pressure.
  • Alcohol use disorder: characterized by a pattern of uncontrolled alcohol consumption, preoccupation with alcohol, or use of alcohol even after recognizing it negatively affecting your life, alcohol use disorder is a spectrum of disorders that include alcoholism.  Excessive drinking can damage your nervous system over time, which can result in numbness.
  • Amyloidosis: a rare disease where abnormal proteins build up in your organs and interfere with their normal functions.  If the deposits of abnormal proteins affect your nerves, you can experience numbness.
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease: a group of inherited disorders that cause nerve damage, particularly in the peripheral nerves.  Symptoms typically appear in adolescence or early adulthood, beginning in the legs and eventually affect the arms as well.
  • Diabetes: a group of diseases that affect how your body processes blood sugar.  Excessive blood sugar can damage the blood supply to your nerves, causing numbness that starts in your extremities and spreads upward.
  • Fabry's disease: a rare disorder causing fatty buildups in the blood vessels and tissues of the kidneys, heart, skin, and brain.  Children and teenagers may experience burning pain in their hands and feet or a starburst pattern on their cornea that doesn’t affect vision.  Older patients can experience numbness, ringing in the ear, reduced kidney function, and irregular heartbeat.
  • Fibromyalgia: a disorder characterized by widespread pain accompanied by fatigue, memory issues, and emotional disturbances.  Women are more likely to develop the disorder and often also have tension headaches, TMJ disorders, IBS, anxiety, and depression. Symptoms typically begin after serious medical, physical, or psychological trauma.
  • Hypothyroidism: a condition where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough crucial hormones.  Symptoms such as fatigue, irregular menstrual periods, and thinning hair tend to develop slowly over multiple years.  If left untreated, it can lead to peripheral neuropathy.
  • Lupus: an autoimmune disease that can affect your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs.  It can be difficult to diagnose as its symptoms often mimic diabetes and arthritis, though its most distinct symptom is a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks.
  • Multiple sclerosis : a disease of the brain and spinal cord where the immune system attacks the myelin sheath protecting the nerves.  Numbness or weakness in the limbs is typical, as well as partial or complete loss of vision.
  • Raynaud's disease: a disease that causes your extremities to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress because of narrowing arteries and limited blood supply.  Fingertips and toes often turn white or blue during attacks.
  • Sjogren's syndrome: an immune system disorder, identified by dry eyes and dry mouth, that typically accompanies other immune system disorders.  Numbness in your feet is a less common complication.
  • Peripheral vascular disease: a common circulation condition where narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to the arms or legs.  This is typically a sign of fatty deposits in the vessels and causes coldness in the lower leg or foot (compared to the other leg), a weak pulse in the legs or feet, skin color changes, and slowed growth of the toenails.

Infectious diseases

  • Lyme disease: a bacterial infection spread by deer ticks, its early symptoms include a bull’s-eye shaped rash that slowly expands, flu-like symptoms, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Shingles: after being infected with chickenpox, the virus can lay dormant in the body until reactivation as shingles later in life.  It causes a painful rash that typically manifests as a stripe of blisters that wraps around one side of the torso.
  • Syphilis: a sexually transmitted infection that begins as a painless sore near the site of infection that progresses into a rash that begins on the trunk and eventually covers the body.  If left untreated, symptoms may go dormant until internal systems become damaged.

Other causes

  • Frostbite: caused by freezing the skin and underlying tissue.  Early symptoms include cold skin and a prickling sensation.  This is followed by numbness and inflamed/discolored skin as the condition worsens.
  • Heavy metal exposure: a toxic accumulation of heavy metals (such as lead, arsenic, or mercury) in the soft tissues of the body.
  • Vasculitis: inflammation of the blood vessels, causing the vessel walls to thicken and restrict blood flow.
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency: a lack of B-12 in your diet can impede red blood cell formation, nerve function, and production of DNA.  It’s an uncommon condition in the US, but older people, vegetarians, vegans, and people with certain disorders are at a higher risk.

doctor pondering medication side effects

Treatment side effects

Certain medicines and medical treatments can cause numbness.  Below, we’ve listed some of the most common treatments with numbness as a side effect.

  • Antibiotics
  • Antiseizure drugs
  • Chemotherapy
  • Heart or blood pressure drugs
  • HIV drugs

When to see a doctor

At the first sign of numbness, call your doctor or health care provider as this can be the first symptoms of a larger issue.  If you are experiencing numbness that spreads throughout the body, seek emergency medical help immediately.

How the ReBuilder® Can Help

We understand we’ve given you a lot to consider in this article, but hopefully, the conversation doesn’t stop here.  Once you’ve identified the cause of your numbness, you can begin treating the symptoms.  If you would like to learn more about how you can regain feeling and begin to repair damaged nerves, please feel free to call us directly at 877-717-5487. If you’d like to try the ReBuilder® for yourself, check out our Find A Doctor page to find a participating physician near you or check out our online store if you’re ready to order your own!

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