7 Reasons Your Feet Won’t Stop Tingling, According to Doctors

Lauren Krouse
Photo credit: Sorrorwoot Chaiyawong / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sorrorwoot Chaiyawong / EyeEm - Getty Images

From Prevention

When you get that familiar pins-and-needles feeling in your feet or numbness in your toes, typically it’s easy to fix: Reposition yourself to take the pressure off of your nerves, and you’re good to go.

“Tingling in the feet is a very common symptom and usually does not indicate a serious problem,” says William Buxton, M.D., neurologist and director of Neuromuscular and Neurodiagnostic Medicine and Fall Prevention at Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

However, if you’re still tingling after you untwist your legs, the feeling persists for a long time, or is accompanied by other symptoms like balance problems, weakness, pain, or a change in your vision, something more serious might be going on—so call your doctor to be sure.

When you head in for an appointment, expect a few questions about your symptoms (like where you’re tingling and how long it’s been going on) plus a physical exam to check on your reflexes, balance, and ability to feel sensations like light touch and vibration, says Dr. Buxton. Depending on your results, you may also need additional blood tests, imaging exams like X-rays and MRIs, or specialized nerve and muscle tests to identify what’s causing your tingling feet.

In the meantime, read on for seven reasons why they might be buzzing:

1. You have diabetes (or you’re on your way to a diagnosis).

“The number one reason for tingling in the feet in this country is diabetes,” says Oluwatosin Thompson, M.D., a neurologist at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, MD. Whether you’re at risk of developing diabetes or have had your diagnosis for years, as your blood sugar levels get higher, the damage done to your nerves could cause tingling in your feet, explains Dr. Thompson.

If you’re excessively thirsty or hungry, overweight or inactive, or have a family history of type 2 diabetes, contact your doctor for a screening. Getting your blood sugar under control with lifestyle changes and medication may help reduce your symptoms and prevent further nerve damage, per the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

2. It could be a result of your medication.

Your medication may be to blame for your tingling feet, especially if chemotherapy is part of your cancer treatment or you take drugs for HIV and AIDS, says Dr. Thompson. In this case, it’s important to have a discussion with your doctor about whether you should try a different medication with fewer side effects or if the benefits of your treatment outweigh the costs, he says.

3. Pregnancy may be causing certain symptoms.

As your baby grows, pressure from your uterus can compress nerves in your legs and lead to pins and needles all the way down to your toes. You might also notice numbness and tingling in your hands due to changing fluid levels in your body, notes Dr. Thompson.

While annoying, these symptoms are normal—and they should go away after you’ve given birth. However, if numbness or tingling in your feet is persistent, worsens, or is accompanied by pain or swelling, contact your healthcare provider to make sure something more serious isn’t going on.

4. Your diet is too low (or high) in B vitamins.

“If you’re deficient in B vitamins like vitamin B1 or B12, you can begin to have tingling sensations in your feet, and it usually starts in both of them,” says Dr. Thompson. Your nerves and nerve coverings need these vitamins to function properly, and without them, your feet could begin to tell you you’re low on them.

Interestingly enough, though, too much vitamin B6 can also cause tingling in your feet, says Dr. Thompson. For this reason, consult with your doctor before you start taking any dietary supplements—they’ll help you take the correct amount to get your body back in balance. In particular, vitamin B12 is mostly found in meat like beef, fish, and chicken, so if you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, ask your doctor about taking supplements to make sure you’re getting enough.

5. A pinched nerve could be to blame.

“If you have back pain and tingling that shoots down your legs and into your feet, that often points to a pinched nerve in your back,” says Dr. Thompson. You might get a pinched nerve from an injury, pregnancy, arthritis, or stress from repetitive movements at work or the gym. In most cases, unless you’re experiencing severe weakness, rest and physical therapy will help alleviate your symptoms. Just note that if you’re in a lot of pain, sometimes surgery or corticosteroid shots are necessary.

6. Your spine is aging.

Typically, spinal stenosis—or a narrowing of the spaces between your spine which puts pressure on your nerves that could cause tingling in both of your feet—strikes when you’re 50 and up, per the Mayo Clinic. Most of the time, it’s part of the aging process as osteoarthritis wears away at the cartilage that serves as a cushion for your joints. You might also experience pain and numbness.

If you notice it’s getting worse, reach out to your doctor. Medication, physical therapy, and even minimally-invasive surgery can help relieve your symptoms, says Kiran Rajneesh, M.D., a neurologist and pain specialist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

7. You have an autoimmune disorder.

Less commonly, autoimmune disorders such as lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, Guillain-Barré syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis can cause tingling in your feet. Why? Unfortunately, your overactive immune system attacks your nerves or, in other cases, arthritis caused by these conditions pinches your nerves which can lead to tingling feet, says Dr. Buxton. Often, though, you’ll have other concerning symptoms like weakness, numbness, difficulty breathing, or chronic pain, which will help your doctor figure out a proper diagnosis and treatment for you.

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