Healthy Living

What Causes Tingling in Feet?

Introduction

A tingling sensation in the feet is a common concern among people. This sensation tends to be a similar feeling to the pins and needles effect. Some people may even feel pain and numbness in their feet along with a tingling sensation, which can be bothersome. However, it is not usually a cause for concern, especially if the tingling is only temporary.

An example would be pressure on the nerves when a person remains in the same position for a long time. The tingling sensation often goes away when the person moves or changes to another position. However, a visit to the doctor may be needed when a person continues to experience tingling in the feet along with pain or numbness.

Causes

Below are some of the possible causes of tingling in the feet:

1. Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetes accounts for approximately 30 percent of peripheral neuropathy cases. Initially, the tingling sensation along with other symptoms develop in the feet and then go up to the legs. Some people with diabetic neuropathy develop these symptoms in their hands and arms. In most cases, these initial symptoms are the first signs of diabetes. People with diabetes often have mild to severe cases of nerve damage. However, there are also cases in which peripheral neuropathy have unknown causes. Nerve damage in people with diabetic neuropathy is usually caused by high blood sugar levels. 

The following are common symptoms of diabetes:

  • Polyphagia (excessive hunger or appetite)
  • Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
  • Polyuria (excessive passage of urine)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Yeast infections
  • Vision problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Breath with a fruity odor
  • Numbness or pain in the hands and feet
  • Lethargy
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow wound healing

Doctors usually run some blood tests to confirm diabetes in patients who have these symptoms. Diabetes can be managed by lifestyle changes and medications, such as insulin. 

2. Vitamin Deficiencies

The vitamins that are essential for the healthy functioning of the nerves are vitamins B1, B6, B12, niacin (vitamin B3), and vitamin E. Being deficient in vitamin B12 can lead to pernicious anemia, including spinal cord degeneration and nerve damage. However, excessive vitamin B6 in the body can also cause tingling in the feet and hands. 

The following symptoms may occur if you are deficient in vitamin B12:

Alcoholics also tend to be deficient in vitamin B1 (thiamine) and other important vitamins due to poor dietary habits. Alcoholism could also lead to nerve damage. This condition is called alcoholic neuropathy. 

3. Nerve Compression

Nerve compression is usually related to trauma, in which the nerves are damaged, crushed, or compressed, leading to nerve pain. A pinched nerve can cause tingling in the feet. Other symptoms of nerve compression are:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Pain
  • Changing sensations in the feet

4. Pregnancy

Pregnant women may experience tingling in their feet. The reason is that their growing uterus can put pressure on the nerves located down their legs, causing a tingling sensation. The tingling sensation may be relieved by the following:

  • Changing of leg positions
  • Elevating the legs
  • Proper hydration

Pregnant women who continue to experience tingling sensations in their feet along with swelling and weakness should see their doctor, so serious health problems can be ruled out. 

5. Infections

Nerve inflammation that can lead to tingling in the feet can be due to a number of infections. They include:

To diagnose these conditions, blood tests may be required. Treatment often depends on the type of infection. 

6. Medications

Some side effects of certain medications can cause tingling in the feet. Medications used in chemotherapy and those for the treatment of HIV/AIDS often cause this side effect. The medications used for the following conditions may also cause tingling in the feet:

7. Kidney Failure

The most common causes of kidney failure are high blood pressure and diabetes. However, kidney failure can also have a number of other causes. One symptom of kidney failure is tingling in the feet. Other symptoms include muscle weakness, numb or painful feet and legs, cramping, muscle twitching, and a pins and needles sensation. 

To diagnose kidney failure, your healthcare provider may run the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Neurological examination
  • Nerve conduction velocity
  • Electromyography

Kidney transplantation and dialysis are the usual treatment for kidney failure. 

8. Autoimmune Diseases

An autoimmune disease is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. Tingling in the feet can also be due to the following autoimmune diseases:

The diagnosis of autoimmune diseases usually involves a number of blood tests. Treatment may also vary, but often includes medications and dietary changes. 

9. Inherited Disorders

Inherited neurologic disorders, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease can cause tingling in the feet. This inherited nerve defect affects a person's sensory and motor nerves. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is also regarded as a peripheral neuropathy since the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord are affected by this condition. 

10. Exposure to Toxins

A tingling sensation in the feet can also be due to the exposure to certain chemicals and toxins. Other symptoms may include weakness, numbness, pain, and walking difficulties. Toxins can either be absorbed through the skin or swallowed. Below are some chemicals and toxins that can cause tingling sensations in the feet: 

  • Alcohol
  • Certain herbal medications
  • Organic insecticides
  • Glue
  • Refrigerants
  • Thallium
  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Arsenic

Exposure to chemicals and toxins as the main cause of tingling in the feet can be difficult to diagnose. Your healthcare provider would initially take your medical history along with more details about the following:

  • Home and work environment
  • Lifestyle and dietary intake
  • Supplements that you take

Aside from blood tests, other tests may also be performed. Treatment in these cases may involve changes in the environmental exposure to chemicals or toxins at home or work, certain medications, and safety precautions. 

Key Takeaways

  • A tingling sensation in the feet tends to be a similar feeling to that of the pins and needles effect. 
  • A visit to the doctor may be needed when you continue to experience tingling in the feet along with pain or numbness.
  • For some people, the tingling sensation in their feet is one of the initial signs of diabetic neuropathy.