While your feet play a very important role in helping you move around regularly, you probably won’t notice them unless you’re using them or looking directly at them. But when your feet are tingling, it’s hard to think about other things.
A tingling foot is not a medical term, but a doctor definitely knows what it means. It can be presented in a number of ways, says Melissa Lockwood, a podiatrist at Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates in Bloomington, Illinois. “It feels like your foot is asleep and you’re trying to wake it up, or it feels like your foot is completely numb,” she adds. “It can be very painful and searing at times.”
Really can vary from person to person. “I’ve had some patients describe it as a needle stick, while others say it feels like a buzzing or burning,” said Ilan Danan, MD, a motor neurologist and pain management specialist at the Cedars Center for Motor Neurology and Pain Medicine. Sense.” – Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute, Los Angeles, California.
If you have a tingling in your foot and it goes away, it may be just one of them. But if your symptoms don’t go away, they go away and then come back, or you have certain medical conditions like diabetes and you have tingling in your feet, it’s best to see your doctor and get checked, says Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, Medicine Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Neurology at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
A tingling foot doesn’t necessarily mean you have a health problem — it can sometimes happen to something as simple as sitting on your foot in an odd way, says Dr. Danan. But there are some conditions that can cause your feet to tingle. Put these on your radar.
Meet the experts: Melissa Lockwood, DPM, is a podiatrist with over 15 years of experience. She has received several awards, including the Ohio College of Podiatry’s Mildred Kaufman Memorial Award for Orthopaedic and Biomechanical Ability.
Ilan Danan, MD, is a motor neurologist and interventional pain management physician. He is an active member of several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Neurology and the American Society of Regional Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine.
Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar (blood sugar) becomes too high. It affects about 30.3 million people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
“High blood sugar damages nerve fibers, but also affects the small blood vessels that supply peripheral nerves,” explains Dr. Dhib-Jalbut. (By the way, peripheral nerves are nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.) This makes it difficult for your nerve fibers to conduct signals, which can lead to a tingling sensation.
According to the NIDDK, other symptoms may include:
- increased thirst and urination
- increased hunger
- blurred vision
- Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- sores that do not heal
- Unexplained weight loss
If it’s caught early enough and your blood sugar is under control, you may be able to resolve the tingling. But if you leave it on for too long, Dr. Danan says, it can cause permanent nerve damage.
2. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. When someone has multiple sclerosis, their body’s immune system targets the protective sheath called myelin that covers the nerves. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including tingling, muscle weakness and fatigue.
“When myelin doesn’t work or is there the way it should, it can cause a sting,” says Dr. Lockwood. There is no cure for MS, but appropriate treatment, such as biological drugs, may help manage symptoms.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, hypothyroidism is a common condition where your thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones and release them into your bloodstream. This can slow down your metabolism and lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and intolerance of cold temperatures.
Tingling in the feet due to hypothyroidism “may be caused by swelling of the tissue that puts pressure on nerve fibers,” Dr. Dhib-Jalbut said. According to the Cleveland Clinic, hypothyroidism is usually treated by taking a drug called levothyroxine, which increases the amount of thyroid hormone your body makes.
4. Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is basically like carpal tunnel syndrome, but for your feet, says Dr. Lockwood. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, this condition is caused by compression of the posterior tibial nerve (found in your foot) and can cause symptoms such as pain, tingling, or numbness in the foot.
Treatment includes taking anti-inflammatory drugs or injecting steroids into the tarsal tunnel to relieve pressure and swelling. In more severe cases, surgery may be required.
5. Kidney failure
Kidney failure means that most of your kidney function has disappeared, according to the Mayo Clinic. At this point, your kidneys are unable to filter waste products out of your blood, and the chemistry of your blood may be out of balance.
In addition to tingling in the feet, other symptoms may include less urine than usual, fluid retention, shortness of breath and weakness, according to the Mayo Clinic. Chronic kidney failure “damages nerve fibers,” leading to tingling in the feet, Dr. Dhib-Jalbut said. Treatment usually includes intravenous fluids, drugs to control potassium in the blood, and dialysis to remove toxins from the blood.
6. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their joints. This can cause symptoms such as joint pain and swelling. About 1.3 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
Rheumatoid arthritis “causes inflammation around nerve tissue,” Dr. Dhib-Jalbut said, leading to nerve compression. Treatment includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
Lupus is a chronic disease that can cause inflammation and pain anywhere in the body. About 1.5 million Americans are affected by the disease, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. It most commonly affects the skin, joints, and internal organs, and can cause a range of different symptoms.
Dr. Dhib-Jalbut says lupus causes tingling in the feet similar to rheumatoid arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lupus is treated with a range of medications, including corticosteroids, NSAIDs, and immunosuppressive drugs.
According to the CDC, shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (the virus that causes chickenpox). After recovering from chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in your body — but it can reactivate later, causing shingles.
Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the body and can cause pain, itching, or tingling in the area. “It’s an attack on the nerves,” says Dr. Danan, noting that your feet may even have a lingering tingling or burning sensation after you recover. Herpes zoster is treated with antiviral drugs such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir.
9. Alcoholic neuropathy
Alcoholic neuropathy is damage to the nerves caused by excessive drinking. This can cause tingling or numbness in the hands, arms, legs, and feet. “The mechanism is unclear, but it may involve the direct toxic effects of alcohol on nerve fibers,” said Dr Dhib-Jalbut.
“Usually, these symptoms are irreversible,” Dr. Lockwood said. “Once you develop this, you’re at a new baseline.”
10. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
Charcot-Marie-Tooth diseases (CMT) are a group of rare diseases that cause damage to peripheral nerves. People with CMT often experience progressive muscle weakness, and the muscles may be smaller and weaker, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can lead to loss of sensation, muscle contractions, and difficulty walking.
Dr. Dhib-Jalbut said CMT “affects the structure and function of peripheral nerves,” leading to symptoms such as nerve tingling. There is no cure for CMT, but patients can get nerve pain relief with medication and walk with orthopedic devices.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general health, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in men’s health, women’s health, self, glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the sea, and hopes to one day own a teacup pig and taco truck.