You’ve probably experienced toe numbness at least once in your life. That feeling of pins and needles in your legs or feet after sitting a certain way for too long, that uncomfortable sensation that subsides as you move your feet.
In most cases, it’s not really a cause for alarm. However, if the numbness in your toes doesn’t go away even if you move your feet, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition that must not be ignored.
In this piece, we’re going to discuss the health issues that may cause toe numbness. But first, it’s important to know how it happens and what causes this phenomenon.
- Toe numbness can be caused by various factors, including temporary situations like frostbite, injuries, wearing tight shoes, or undergoing chemotherapy sessions.
- Toe numbness can also be a symptom of underlying medical conditions, such as peripheral neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy, Morton’s neuroma, Raynaud’s phenomenon, metatarsalgia, tarsal tunnel syndrome, Guillain-Barré syndrome, peripheral artery disease, multiple sclerosis, or sciatica.
- It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience persistent or worsening numbness, along with other symptoms like muscle weakness, pain, changes in skin colour or texture, loss of balance or coordination, or sudden or severe numbness.
- Depending on the underlying cause, you may need to consult a neurologist, orthopedic specialist, or podiatrist for a proper evaluation and treatment.
- Home remedies such as stretching and exercise, massage, wearing proper footwear, and elevating your feet can help alleviate mild cases of toe numbness, but serious cases may require medical intervention. Watsonia Podiatry offers diagnosis, treatment, pain management, and lifestyle modifications to address toe numbness and improve overall foot health.
Toe numbness occurs when there is a problem with the nerve fibres that carry sensation from the toes to the brain, which can happen for several reasons.
One of the most common causes is a condition called peripheral neuropathy. This is a condition in which the peripheral nerves, which carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the toes and the rest of the body are damaged, resulting in toe numbness, tingling, and weakness.
Peripheral neuropathy normally occurs in your toes mainly because of their distance from the heart and spinal cord. Due to this distance, the toes rely on long nerves and blood vessels to function properly, which increases the likelihood of damage to these nerves and vessels, causing disruptions in signals and resulting in numbness.
These disruptions in signals can be caused by temporary situations such as:
- Wearing tight shoes
- Chemotherapy sessions
However, toe numbness can also be the result of underlying conditions that could trigger peripheral neuropathy and cause tingling sensations and numbness.
Vitamin B12 and folate are essential nutrients that play important roles in the body. Vitamin B12 is necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. Folate, on the other hand, is also important for the production and maintenance of these red blood cells.
That is why a deficiency in either of these vitamins can lead to various health problems. It can cause anemia, fatigue, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.
Both vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor diet, absorption problems, and certain medical conditions. For example, people with pernicious anemia, a condition that affects the absorption of vitamin B12, are at increased risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
It’s important to see a doctor for a proper evaluation. Your doctor can perform tests to determine your nutrient levels and develop a plan of care to help you manage your symptoms and improve your health.
Diabetic neuropathy, as the name suggests, affects people with diabetes. It is caused by high blood sugar levels that can damage the nerves over time. One common manifestation of diabetic neuropathy is numbness or tingling in the toes, feet, and other extremities.
In some cases, diabetic neuropathy can cause weakness and loss of balance, making it difficult to walk and perform daily activities.
People with diabetes need to have regular foot exams to check for numbness and other symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Early detection and treatment of diabetic neuropathy can help prevent the progression of the condition and reduce the risk of complications such as foot ulcers and infections.
Learn more about how diabetes can affect your feet here.
This condition is caused by the compression of the nerve that runs between the third and fourth toes, which can lead to the formation of a painful, non-cancerous growth or swelling (neuroma) in the nerve. In some cases, toe numbness can be felt as well.
The exact cause of Morton’s neuroma is not clear yet. However, it is thought to be related to repetitive stress or injury to the foot, such as from wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes, which is why it’s a lot more common in women.
Morton’s Neuroma is also often associated with other foot problems such as flat feet or high arches.
Treatment for Morton’s neuroma typically involves wearing shoes with more room for the toes and using orthotics to redistribute pressure on the foot. Anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and nerve injections can also be used to relieve pain and swelling.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the affected nerve.
You can learn more about Morton’s Neuroma in this piece here.
Raynaud’s phenomenon, also known as Raynaud’s disease, is a condition that affects blood flow to the fingers and toes, causing the skin to turn white and numb. It is often followed by blue discolouration, and then redness as blood flow returns to normal.
The episodes of reduced blood flow are usually triggered by cold temperatures or stress but can also occur spontaneously. Raynaud’s phenomenon can be a primary condition or can occur as a secondary condition in association with other diseases such as lupus, scleroderma, or rheumatoid arthritis.
If you would like to know more about Raynaud’s Phenomenon, read this article.
Metatarsalgia is a type of foot pain that affects the metatarsal bones. These are the long bones in the forefoot that connect the toes to the rest of the foot.
Metatarsalgia is characterised by pain, swelling, and tenderness in the affected area, and can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Repetitive stress from activities such as running, jumping, or walking can cause inflammation and pain
Wearing shoes that don’t fit well or have high heels which places extra stress on the metatarsal bones
- Morton’s neuroma
The numbness in the toes caused by metatarsalgia may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as tingling, burning, and weakness in the affected area. In some cases, the numbness may be temporary and resolved on its own with proper rest. However, you still need to consult your doctor to treat the underlying condition.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that affects the tarsal tunnel, a narrow passage located on the inside of the ankle. The tarsal tunnel contains several important structures, including the tibial nerve, blood vessels, and tendons, and can become compressed or pinched, causing pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the foot and ankle.
In more severe cases of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, the compression of the tibial nerve can cause significant nerve damage and result in persistent numbness in the toes. This can impact the ability to perform daily activities and cause discomfort and inconvenience.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disorder that affects the peripheral nerves, causing muscle weakness and numbness or tingling in the extremities, including the toes.
In GBS, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the peripheral nerves, causing inflammation and damage to the nerve fibres, making it difficult to perform daily activities and causing significant discomfort and inconvenience.
In severe cases of GBS, the numbness can progress to muscle weakness and paralysis. The severity and progression of symptoms can vary from person to person and can range from mild to life-threatening.
It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience sudden or rapidly worsening numbness, tingling, or weakness in the toes or other extremities.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition that occurs when the blood vessels in the legs and feet become narrow or blocked, reducing the flow of blood and oxygen to the extremities. This can cause a range of symptoms, including pain, cramping, and numbness in the legs and feet, particularly when walking or performing other activities.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system, causing a range of symptoms, including muscle weakness, numbness or tingling, and problems with balance and coordination.
The disease is caused by damage to the protective covering of the nerves, called the myelin sheath, leading to disruptions in the normal transmission of signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
Its symptoms may also vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, the numbness can progress to muscle weakness and difficulty with coordination and balance.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. When this nerve gets compressed or irritated, it may lead to sciatica, a condition that is characterised by pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs and feet
Sciatica is usually caused by a herniated disk, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease, all of which can put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Other potential causes of sciatica include spinal tumours, infections, and injury.
The symptoms of sciatica may also vary, but often include:
- Sharp, shooting pain in the lower back, legs, and feet
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs or feet
- Difficulty moving the legs or feet
- Muscle weakness in the legs
- Pain that worsens when sitting
Treatment for sciatica depends on the underlying cause of the condition but may include pain medications, physical therapy, and exercises to strengthen the back and legs. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Toe numbness is often short-lived and is not considered a medical emergency unless it is caused by more serious medical conditions. But other than that, there are some simple strategies you can try at home to help reduce or eliminate toe numbness such as:
Stretching and exercise – can help improve circulation and flexibility in the toes.
Massage – can increase blood circulation and help alleviate numbness.
Wearing proper footwear – comfortable shoes with proper arch support and cushioning can reduce pressure on the feet and help alleviate numbness.
Elevating your feet – this can help improve circulation and reduce numbness in the toes when sitting or lying down.
Keep in mind that these strategies can help alleviate mild cases of toe numbness and that more serious cases may require medical attention. If you have persistent or worsening symptoms, it’s important to consult your doctor to determine the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan for you.
You should be concerned about numbness in your toes if it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- Muscle weakness
- Changes in skin colour or texture
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden or severe numbness
If you are experiencing numbness in your toes, you should see a doctor for a proper evaluation. Depending on the underlying cause of your symptoms, you may need to see a specific type of doctor.
A neurologist is a doctor who specialises in the treatment of nervous system disorders, including peripheral neuropathy which can cause numbness in the toes.
An orthopaedic specialist may be necessary if the numbness in your toes is related to a foot or ankle injury, such as a fracture, sprain, or other orthopedic condition.
A podiatrist is a doctor who specialises in the treatment of foot and ankle conditions. If your numbness is related to a foot or ankle condition, such as neuropathy, Morton’s neuroma, or metatarsalgia, you may visit a podiatrist like Watsonia Podiatry to get checked and treated.
If you are experiencing numbness in your toes, Watsonia Podiatry can help your condition in the following ways:
Diagnosis – We will perform a thorough evaluation of your symptoms and medical history to determine the underlying cause of your toe numbness. This may involve a physical examination, nerve function tests, imaging studies, and laboratory tests.
Treatment – Based on the diagnosis, we will develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms and improve your overall foot health.
This may include non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy, orthotics, or medications, as well as surgical treatments for conditions such as Morton’s neuroma or Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.
Pain management – If your toe numbness is accompanied by pain, we can help manage your symptoms with appropriate medications or other pain management techniques.
Lifestyle modifications – We may also recommend changes to your daily activities, footwear, or posture to help reduce stress on your feet and prevent further damage to the nerves or blood vessels in your toes.
By working with Watsonia Podiatry, you can receive personalised, effective care for your toe numbness and improve your overall foot health. Call us or book an appointment online for your first assessment!