What Is Toe Numbness?
numbness is a symptom that occurs when the sensation in your toes is affected.
The effects may be the absence of sensation or tingling and/or burning
sensations. This effect can make walking difficult or even painful.
numbness can be a temporary symptom, or it can be a chronic symptom for some
people. Chronic toe numbness is a concern because it affects your walking
abilities and can lead to injuries and wounds you may be unaware of. While toe
numbness can be a cause of concern, it’s rarely considered a medical emergency.
What Are the Signs of Toe Numbness?
Toe numbness is an abnormal sensation in the toes
that often reduces your ability to feel the ground underneath you or your toes
themselves. You may also feel tingling sensations up your legs or in your toes
as sensation returns and the numbness goes away. Numbness can also cause a
pins-and-needles feeling in your toes. This can occur in only one foot or in
both feet depending upon its cause.
What Causes Toe Numbness?
Your body contains a complex network of sensory nerves
that provide your sense of touch. When the nerves are pressed, damaged, or
irritated, it’s as if a telephone line has been cut and the messages can’t get
through. The result is numbness, whether temporary or long-lasting.
A number of medical conditions can cause toe
numbness. These include:
- alcoholism or chronic
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- diabetes and diabetic
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- herniated disk
- multiple sclerosis
- peripheral arterial disease
- peripheral vascular disease
- Raynaud’s disease
- spinal cord injury
- vasculitis or inflammation
of the blood vessels
Some people experience exercise-associated toe numbness,
especially after engaging in high-impact exercises, such as running or playing
a sport. This is because the nerves are frequently compressed while exercising.
The numbness should subside fairly quickly after you stop exercising.
Less commonly, numbness in toes can be a sign of a
more serious neurological event. This is the case when you experience sudden
numbness on one side of the body. This can be caused by:
- transient ischemic attack
(also known as TIAs)
When Should I Get Medical Help?
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience toe
numbness along with any of these symptoms:
- difficulty seeing out of one
or both eyes
- facial drooping
- inability to think or speak
- loss of balance
- muscle weakness
- toe numbness that occurs
after recent head trauma
- sudden loss of sensation or
numbness on one side of your body
- sudden, severe headache
- tremors, jerking, or
For toe numbness not associated with other symptoms, see your doctor
when it becomes uncomfortable or doesn’t go away as it once did. You should
also seek medical help if toe numbness starts to worsen.
How Is Toe Numbness Diagnosed?
Your doctor will first take an inventory of your
medical history and symptoms before conducting a physical examination. If you’re
experiencing stroke- or seizure-like symptoms, the doctor may recommend a CT or
MRI scan. These can detect bleeding in the brain that could indicate a stroke.
MRI and CT scans are also used to detect
abnormalities in the spine that could indicate sciatica or spinal stenosis.
Your doctor will perform a comprehensive foot exam
if your symptoms seem to be concentrated on the feet themselves. This includes
testing your abilities to sense temperature and other sensations in the feet.
Other tests include nerve conduction studies, which
can detect how well electric current is transmitted through the nerves.
Electromyography is another test that determines how muscles respond to electrical
How Is Toe Numbness Treated?
Treatments for toe numbness depend upon its
underlying cause. Your doctor will recommend medications and treatments to
ensure your blood sugar stays at appropriate levels if diabetic neuropathy is
the cause. Increasing your physical activity and paying careful attention to
your diet can also help.
In addition to these steps, a doctor may prescribe
pain-relieving medications. These can include:
- antidepressants and anticonvulsants to treat
diabetic nerve pain, including duloxetine and pregabalin
- opioids or opioid-like medications, such as
oxycodone or tramadol
- tricyclic antidepressants, including amitriptyline
People with chronic foot numbness should undergo routine foot
examinations to check for wounds and foot circulation. Patients with chronic
foot numbness should practice excellent foot hygiene, including:
- cutting toenails straight across or getting toenails
cut at a podiatrist’s office
- inspecting the feet daily for cuts or wounds using a
handheld mirror to check the bottom of the feet
- wearing soft, thick socks that support and cushion
- wearing well-fitting shoes that allow the toes to