10 Causes of Tingling in Feet

While your feet do the all-important job of helping you move around on a regular basis, unless you use them or look straight at them, you probably won’t notice them much. But when you have tingling in your feet, it’s hard to think of anything else.

Tingling feet isn’t a medical term, but doctors certainly know what it means. It can present itself in a variety of ways, says Melissa Lockwood, DPM, a podiatrist at Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates in Bloomington, Illinois. “It can feel like your foot has fallen asleep and you’re trying to wake it up, or it can feel like your foot is completely numb,” she adds. “It can be quite painful and burning at times.”

It really can vary from person to person. “I get some patients who describe it as pins and needles, while others say it feels like a buzzing or burning sensation,” says Ilan Danan, MD, a sports neurologist and specialist in pain management with the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars. -Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, California.

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If you have tingling in your feet and it has gone away, that’s probably one of those things. But if your symptoms don’t go away, they go away and come back, or you have certain health conditions like diabetes and you have tingling in your feet, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to get checked, says Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, MD, a professor and the chair of neurology at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Tingling in your feet doesn’t necessarily mean you have a medical condition — it can sometimes happen from something as simple as sitting on your foot in a weird way, says Dr. danan. But a few conditions can lead to tingling in your feet. Keep this one 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 Podiatric Medicine Mildred Kaufman Memorial Award for excellence in orthopedics and biomechanics.

Ilan Danan, MD, is a sports 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 Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.

1. diabetes mellitus

      Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), it affects an estimated 30.3 million people in the US.

      “High blood sugar can damage nerve fibers, but also affect the small blood vessels that supply nutrients to the peripheral nerves,” explains Dr. Dhib-Jalbut out. (By the way, peripheral nerves are located outside your brain and spinal cord.) This can make it difficult for your nerve fibers to conduct signals, leading to a tingling sensation.

      Other symptoms, according to the NIDDK, may include:

      • increased thirst and urination
      • increased hunger
      • fatigue
      • blurred vision
      • numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
      • sores that don’t heal
      • unexplained weight loss

      If caught early enough and your blood sugar levels are brought under control, you may be able to get rid of the tingling sensation. But if you let it take too long, Dr. Danan that it is possible to develop permanent nerve damage.

      2. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

      Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). When someone has MS, their body’s immune system targets the protective sheath that covers nerves called myelin. That can lead to a range of symptoms, including tingling, muscle weakness and fatigue.

      “If the myelin sheath isn’t working or isn’t present as it should, it can cause tingling,” says Dr. Lockwood. MS cannot be cured, but getting proper treatment, such as biologics, can help manage symptoms.

      3. Hypothyroidism

      Hypothyroidism is a common condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t make and release enough thyroid hormones into your bloodstream, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This can slow your metabolism and lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain and difficulty tolerating cold temperatures.

      The tingling sensation in your feet due to hypothyroidism is “probably caused by tissue swelling that puts pressure on the nerve fibers,” says Dr. Dhib-Jalbut. Hypothyroidism is usually treated by taking a drug called levothyroxine, which increases the amount of thyroid hormone your body produces, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

      4. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

      Tarsal tunnel syndrome is basically the same as carpal tunnel syndrome, but for your feet, says Dr. Lockwood. The condition is caused by compression of the posterior tibial nerve (located in your foot) and can cause symptoms such as pain, tingling or numbness in your foot, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

      Treatment involves taking anti-inflammatory medications or receiving steroid injections into the tarsal tunnel to relieve pressure and swelling. In more severe cases, surgery may be required.

      5. Kidney Failure

      Kidney failure means most of your kidney function is gone, according to the Mayo Clinic. At this point, your kidneys are unable to filter waste products from your blood, and your blood’s chemical makeup can become unbalanced.

      Symptoms — other than tingling in your feet — can include urinating less than usual, fluid retention, shortness of breath and weakness, the Mayo Clinic says. Chronic kidney failure “can damage nerve fibers,” leading to tingling in the feet, says Dr. Dhib-Jalbut. Treatment usually includes IV fluids, medication to control potassium in your blood, and dialysis to remove toxins from your blood.

      6. Rheumatoid Arthritis

      Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their joints. That can cause symptoms such as joint pain and swelling. About 1.3 million people in the US have RA, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

      Rheumatoid arthritis can “cause inflammation around nerve tissue,” which compresses nerves, says Dr. Dhib-Jalbut. Treatment includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

      7. Lupus

      Lupus is a chronic disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of your body. About 1.5 million Americans are affected by the disease, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. It usually affects the skin, joints, and internal organs, and it can cause a range of different symptoms.

      The reason for tingling in the feet with lupus is similar to rheumatoid arthritis, says Dr. Dhib-Jalbut. Lupus is treated with a range of medications, including corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressive medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

      8. Shingles

      Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (the same one that leads to chickenpox), according to the CDC. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in your body, but it can reactivate later and cause shingles.

      Shingles is a painful rash that occurs on one side of your body and can cause pain, itching, or tingling in the area. “It’s an attack on the nerves,” says Dr. Danan, pointing out that you may even have a persistent tingling or burning sensation in your feet after you recover. Shingles is treated with antiviral medications such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir.

      9. Alcoholic Neuropathy

      Alcoholic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by drinking too much. This can cause tingling or numbness in the hands, arms, legs and feet. The mechanism is not well understood, but it could be alcohol’s direct toxic effect on nerve fibers,” said Dr. Dhib-Jalbut.

      “Normally, these symptoms are not reversible,” says Dr. Lockwood. “Once you’ve developed this, you’ll be at your new baseline.”

      10. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

      Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is a group of rare disorders that cause damage to the peripheral nerves. People with CMT usually develop progressive muscle weakness and may have smaller, weaker muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can lead to loss of sensation, muscle contractions and difficulty walking.

      CMT “affects the structure and function of peripheral nerves,” leading to symptoms such as nerve tingling, Dr. Dhib-Jalbut. There is no cure for CMT, but patients can get relief with medications to help nerve pain along with the use of orthopedic appliances to walk.

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