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Numbness of Legs: What are the Possible Reasons?

There are several reasons why a person feels numbness or tingling in their legs or feet. Sitting in the same position for too long is one of the most common wherein the blood flow to the legs is reduced. It is due to a lack of blood supply to a specific area or nerve damage. Leg numbness can also be caused by inflammation, infection, trauma, and other abnormal processes. Other causes are not life-threatening disorders but may occur with tumors or strokes. However, chronic numbness can be caused by serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.

When you feel numbness in your legs, it can be due to various reasons. Find out the things that you need to do about it.

Paresthesia

If you are sitting for too long and you have your legs crossed, the pressure may compress the nerves in your leg briefly. This can prevent your brain and the nerves in your leg from “contacting” each other as they always do. This is called paresthesia, but most people use the term their leg or other body part has “fallen asleep”. Leg numbness due to paresthesia is characterized by:

  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • A feeling that something in your skin or your skin itself is “crawling”

Once you move your leg, the numbness will go away. Changing your sitting position often can prevent paresthesia, and try not to cross your legs for too long.

Sciatica

The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back through your hips and butt, down to your legs. Once this nerve gets pinched or compressed, your leg will go numb. This condition can often affect one side of your body. Sitting for a long time, extra body weight, or being in an older age group can also result in sciatica. Besides leg numbness, having sciatica will also make you experience the following:

  • Pain that traverses from your lower back down to your leg
  • Pain that gets worse as you sneeze, cough, or sits for a while
  • Tingling sensation
  • Muscle weakness

Sciatica can be mild where it goes away on its own. If your case lasts more than a week, which started after you got into an accident or you started to lose control of your bowels or bladder, see your doctor.

Drugs like anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid shots can ease such pain, but physical therapy and chiropractic care often help too. However, some severe cases may need surgery to take the pressure off the nerve.

Diabetes

Diabetes or having high blood sugar for a long time can damage the nerves throughout the body, oftentimes in your feet and legs. Health professionals call this peripheral neuropathy, where your hands and arms become numb, and they get worse at night. If the symptoms that you have are caused by peripheral neuropathy, you may experience tingling and:

  • Intense leg pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weak reflexes­ (often at the ankle)
  • Trouble with balance
  • Foot sores or infections
  • Pain when touched

If you have signs of diabetes-related leg numbness, contact your doctor. You might need help to control your blood sugar. If you ignore these symptoms, nerve damage can raise your chances of hurting your foot from incidents like stepping on sharp things, on a splinter, or stubbing your toe repeatedly. These frequent foot injuries can result in painful joint disorders.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Your arteries can go narrow when they are inflamed or damaged, making it tough to get enough blood flow to your legs. This condition is called peripheral artery disease (PAD). People who smoke, obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or diabetic have greater chances of getting this disease.

  • If you experience numbness in your leg due to PAD, you could also have:
  • Leg cramps
  • Pain when you walk or climb stairs
  • A feeling of weakness in your hips and legs

Since this type of pain is assumed to go away with rest, some people are quick to dismiss these symptoms, which they should not. Peripheral Artery Disease can raise your chances of heart attack or stroke; hence those who are having symptoms should pay attention to their body. Your healthcare provider will suggest some drugs to protect your heart, manage your symptoms and ease your pain.

Multiple Sclerosis

Numbness is one of the common early symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Having this condition can affect your immune system and lessen your body’s defense against germs and diseases that may attach to your central nervous system. You may experience “pins and needles” feeling. Severe numbness goes from not feeling your foot and struggling to walk. Although no two people with Multiple Sclerosis have the same symptoms, you may also notice:

  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizzy or lightheaded feeling
  • Stiffness or muscle spasms
  • Mood changes

When your condition is caused by MS, the numbness in your leg is likely to come and go. Prescription drugs or steroids are given to help you get through a flare faster. But some patients choose to get chiropractic help or talk to their doctor if they don’t know if they have MS. Even though there is no cure to this condition, getting treated early can keep the disease from getting worse.

Peripheral Nerve Tumor

This type of tumor grows in or near the nerves that are responsible for controlling the muscles in your legs. It is usually benign, which means it cannot lead to cancer. However, it can still cause nerve damage and pain.

If you have a tumor, you may also experience these signs:

  • Swelling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of balance
  • A lump under your skin

Consulting your doctor will enable you to know if the tumor is still slow-growing. In other cases, you may be recommended for surgery to remove it, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Bottom Line

Temporary numbness in your foot or lower leg caused by sitting for too long is totally normal, and there is no need to worry about it. However, recurring, frequent, or persistent numbness in the same area could be a sign of a more serious medical condition and should be diagnosed by a professional or your doctor immediately.

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