What Causes Numb Feet

Numb feet are the result of damage of peripheral nerves in a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral nerves are the extension of the nerves from brain and spinal cord which get affected by peripheral neuropathy resulting in tingling sensation, pain in the extremities but more commonly the feet. Peripheral neuropathy first results in tingling feet over a period of time and then affects the hands. In addition to nerve damage, it can also affect muscles leading to their atrophy and limiting function. Due to gradual onset of the symptoms, diagnosis is delayed causing late neuropathy treatment and more damage to the numb feet. Once diagnosed, tingling feet can be managed by using neuropathy creams and Capsaicin medicines for pain relief.


Numb feet as a symptoms occurs when the peripheral nerves fails to function properly and send signals from the central nervous system to organs and vice versa. There can be many causes for the nerve damage or the numb feet such as diabetes, physical injury, systemic diseases, poisoning, malnutrition and alcohol abuse, hereditary and infections.


Physical injury is the most common cause for nerve damage. Recurrent injury during sports, accidents, falls, fractures and slipped discs account for neuropathy causing tingling feet. From over pressure and over stretching on the nerves, lack of blood supply occurs and causes partial to complete damage to nerves and sometimes detachment from the spinal cord.


It can also result from poisonous substances such as nitrous oxide, heavy metals like lead, arsenic or mercury, drugs, industrial chemicals and toxic compounds like sniffing glue. Drugs which cause numb feet are isoniazid, phenyton, ethyl alcohol and drugs for blood cholesterol and affect the sensory nerves.


Studies shows that taking 3oo ml of alcohol everyday for consecutive three years can cause alcoholic neuropathy which is the sub type of peripheral neuropathy and can cause tearing or burning pains with tingling and numbness in hands and feet.  Alcohol abuse with undernourishment can also cause this type of neuropathy. Vitamin B especially folate and Vitamin E deficiency are thought to affect the nerves and cause damage resulting in associated neuropathic symptoms.


Diabetic neuropathy affects the sensory nerves causing numbness in feet and sensation of burning and tingling as from the ‘stocking’. Other diseases causing this type of neuropathy are uremia, atherosclerosis, liver failure, hypothyroidism, acromegaly and vasculitides. In addition to this some bacterial and viral infections can also cause numb feeling in the feet or neuropathic conditions. These are leprosy, shingles, chickenpox and HIV infection. Certain autoimmune diseases such as Guillain- Barre syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus and inherited diseases like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and Friedreich’s ataxia are responsible.

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