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Tingling In Feet: 6 Common Causes You Should Know About

tingling in feet

If you have a desk job, you might have experienced numbness in the feet. This is quite common in people who sit in a single position for a long time as it puts pressure on the nerves. This, in turn, causes the feet to feel numb and even lead to pain (in some cases). However, the feeling usually subsides when you move or shift the position.

Tingling in feet is common health problem which is usually not a cause of concern. It may be persistent (comes off and on) as well. But if it continues for a long time or if it is associated with pain or swelling, then it is wise to consult a doctor to know the cause of it and get it treated on time. Here are some of the common causes of tingling in feet, also known as pins and needles.

What Causes Tingling In Feet?

Diabetic neuropathy is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy that causes tingling in feet. However, in some cases, there is no known cause of tingling in feet, which is known as idiopathic neuropathy. It is common in people over 60 years of age. But to rule out health problems responsible for tingling of feet, your doctor will do a detailed physical exam followed by medical tests.

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Here are some of the common health problems that cause tingling in feet.

1. Diabetic Neuropathy: One of the common health complications caused due to diabetes is diabetic neuropathy. It is a condition in which the nerves are damaged due to uncontrolled blood sugar level. The common symptom of diabetic neuropathy is persistent tingling in the feet. It is shown that around 10% to 20% of patients with diabetes report peripheral neuropathy at the time of diagnosis. Moreover, around 26% diabetics have peripheral neuropathy after 5 years of diagnosis, which increases to 41% after ten years.

Your doctor will ask for your clinical history and do a complete physical examination. If needed, he might recommend blood tests to determine if you have diabetes and if it is the reason for tingling sensation in feet. Once diagnosed, lifestyle changes, dietary modifications and medications can help to manage diabetes and prevent diabetic neuropathy as advised by your doctor.

2. Pregnancy: Some women might experience tingling in feet during pregnancy. As the uterus grows, it leads to the pressure on the nerves that run down the legs leading to pins and needles in the legs. However, tingling caused due to pregnancy can be relieved by resting with your feet, changing positions, and making sure you are well hydrated as it increases blood circulation. You should consult a doctor if tingling worsens or is accompanied by weakness or swelling to rule out any other health problem.

3. Vitamin Deficiencies: Lack of vitamins can also cause pins and needles in the feet. It could be due to a poor diet which lacks essential nutrients or due to an underlying health problem that causes vitamin deficiency. One of the common vitamin deficiencies that cause tingling in feet is B-complex vitamins. Some of the common signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, feeling cold in hands and feet, etc. If your doctor suspects vitamin deficiency as the cause of the symptom, blood tests might be recommended. On diagnosis, treatment might be advised based on the cause of the low vitamin levels which could be dietary changes or vitamin supplements.

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4. Pinched nerve: People suffering from pinched nerve also experience tingling in feet. It could be due to pressure on the nerves in the back following an injury or swelling. It can also cause symptoms such as pain in the legs, increased or decreased sensation in the feet, and decreased mobility. Tests to look at muscle activity such as electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction velocity might be recommended to diagnose pinched nerve. The condition can be treated by sufficient rest, medication, physical therapy and in certain cases, even surgery.

5. Kidney failure: Kidney failure can cause tingling in feet which is attributed to increased blood sugar level and blood pressure. Diabetes and hypertension are one of the common causes of kidney disease, which if left untreated can cause kidney failure. Some of the common signs and symptoms that indicate your kidneys are in danger include cramping or twitching in the muscles, muscle weakness, and pain and numbness in the feet. Blood tests to determine kidney function and neurological exam are usually done to detect kidney damage and nerve damage.

6. Infections: Tingling in feet might be a sign of nerve damage which is mostly caused due to repetitive stress injuries or strain on the nerves. However, in certain cases, it can also lead to inflammation of the nerves followed by bacterial or viral infections. Some of the common infections that cause pins and needles in the feet include shingles, hepatitis B and C, leprosy, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and Lyme disease.

The inflammation can also be caused due to autoimmune diseases such as lupus, celiac disease, and arthritis, in which the body attacks the body’s own immune cells. Moreover, certain medications can also cause tingling in feet including antiviral drugs, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs.

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So do consult a doctor if you experience persistent tingling in feet coupled with pain and swelling to know the cause of the underlying condition or rule out any possible health complications.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

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1. Bodman MA, Varacallo M. Diabetic Neuropathy. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2018 Jan.

2. Korpinen L, Pääkkönen R, Gobba F. Self-Reported Ache, Pain, or Numbness in Feet and Use of Computers amongst Working-Age Finns. Healthcare (Basel). 2016 Nov 7;4(4). pii: E82.

3. Wolf SL, Barton DL, Qin R, et al. The relationship between numbness, tingling, and shooting/burning pain in patients with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) as measured by the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20 instrument, N06CA. Support  Care Cancer. 2012 Mar;20(3):625-32.

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