Article reviewed and approved by Dr. Ibtissama Boukas, physician specializing in family medicine
A numb toe is manifested by altered sensation, tingling or even a burning sensation. This can even make walking difficult, even painful.
What are the causes of numbness in your toe? Is that bad ? And above all, what to do to regain a normal feeling? This article explains several causes of numb toe, and offers solutions to solve your problem.
Toe numbness refers to a loss of feeling in the toes. Although there exists several possible causes (which we will discuss below), numbness is usually due to nerve irritation or lack of blood supply to the toes.
A numb toe may be associated with pain, a needle feel, tingling, a burning sensation, a coldness, an abnormal reaction to hot or cold, etc. The term paresthesia is used to group together this category of symptoms.
Maintaining the cleanliness and efficiency of your period swimwear is essential. Whether you choose to differentiate between numbness and paralysis. While numbness in the toes refers to loss of sensation, paralysis involves loss of movement (whether or not associated with the feeling of numbness in the area).
Depending on the cause, the loss of sensation can disappear quickly: One thinks for example of the numb toe that appears after sitting in an uncomfortable position for a long time, and which disappears when you get up and start moving your leg again. Other times, the sensation may be constant, which usually reveals more significant impairment. In some cases, the sensation may be worse at night.
Like the numbness in the hands, a numb toe can come from several causes, ranging from minor to severe.
In addition to nervous or vascular causes, a numb toe can be secondary to taking medication, or even following chemotherapy. A vitamin B12 deficiency can also reproduce numbness and tingling in the feet.
Here are medical conditions that can cause a feeling of numbness at the toe:
- Local trauma (such as a bruise or fracture)
- Diabetes (diabetic neuropathy)
- Charcot Marie Tooth disease
- Guillain-Baré syndrome
- Herniated disc
- Multiple sclerosis
- Myelopathy (disorder of spinal cord)
- Peripheral nerve injury
- Morton's neuroma
- Lyme disease
- Raynaud's disease
- Buerger's disease
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Metatarsalgia, hallux valgus
- Infections, such as fungal infections (such as onychomycosis) or cellular infections
It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive and each individual case may have specific causes.
Is that bad ? (When to Worry?)
Although a numb toe can be cause for concern, it is rarely considered a medical emergency.
In some rare cases, it can come from a serious attack such as a stroke, myelopathy or deep vein thrombosis. Besides numbness in the toe, it is possible to experience the following symptoms:
- Visual disturbances
- Severe headache
- Respiratory difficulties
- Facial sagging
- Speech disorders
- Loss of equilibrium
- Muscle weakness and difficulty walking
- Loss of sensation elsewhere in the body
- Change in heart rate or blood pressure
- Pain worse at night
In short, it is essential to consult your doctor when a numb toe is accompanied by other symptoms (such as those mentioned above). It is also important to consult if the numbness does not disappear over time, or if it is felt more and more.
If the numbness appeared after having recently suffered an injury or trauma, it is important to consult without delay. The same is true if you have a history of chronic conditions, such as diabetes or another.
In all these cases, it is best to consult a health professional, such as a general practitioner, orthopedic specialist, neurologist or podiatrist. The doctor will be able to assess your symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis, and recommend appropriate treatment based on the underlying cause of toe numbness.
Numb toe: What to do?
1. Clarify the diagnosis
To better treat a numb toe, it is essential to place a precise diagnosis. This will identify the source of the problem, and provide an appropriate solution.
During the consultation, the doctor will typically start with a medical history and a questionnaire to better understand your symptoms. You will be asked questions as :
- Where exactly do you feel the numbness (which toes, other part of the foot, legs, etc.)?
- When did the numbness start?
- How long does numbness last on average?
- Are there any activities that cause the toe numb, or make the numbness worse?
- Do you experience any other sensations, such as pain, burning or itching?
Un physical examination will also help clarify the diagnosis, and may include:
- Neurological examination
- Assessment of sensation (dermatomas)
- Strength assessment (myotomes)
- Reflex assessment
- Gait assessment
- Coordination assessment
If necessary, a testmedical imaging can be prescribed. If he suspects a sciatica or a narrow lumbar canal, the doctor could, for example, prescribe a lumbar scan or MRI. In addition, a Doppler could be prescribed to objectify vascular damage.
Personalized nerve conduction tests (called an electromyogram or EMG) could be used to study nerve conduction in the lower limbs. Essentially, one would like to know how current is transmitted through nerves, and how muscles respond to electrical stimulation.
2. Get prescribed appropriate medication
As mentioned earlier, the treatment for numb toe depends on the underlying cause.
If diabetic neuropathy is the primary cause, your doctor will recommend medications aimed at keeping your blood sugar at an appropriate level.
Moreover, medications aimed at relieving pain or controlling inflammation will often be prescribed to ease symptoms. The same is true for antifungals in case of infection.
3. Change your diet (and other risk factors)
Although there is no formal scientific evidence on this subject, paresthesias could be partly related to a suboptimal diet.
It would be relevant to reduce or stop your alcohol consumption to see if it has an impact on the numbness. Weight loss could reduce strain on your lower extremities, and sometimes relieve your symptoms.
If you have diabetes, be sure to keep your blood sugar levels under control, as high blood sugar can damage nerves and blood vessels.
A anti-inflammatory diet might also prove helpful in reducing inflammation in a natural way.
Moreover, it is preferable to avoid the risk factors related to toe numbness. If you have identified risk factors such as exposure to cold, excessive use of cigarettes or alcohol, or certain body positions, try to avoid them as much as possible.
4. Change shoes
A common cause of numb toe is wearing the wrong shoes. Indeed, if your shoes are too tight or with a high heel, they could affect blood circulation in the lower limbs and feet. This is particularly important if you have to walk a lot or stand for a long time for your job, or if you are a fan of running.
If you suffer from chronic toe numbness, the first thing to do is try wearing wider shoes. This is an easy fix that might fix your problem pretty quickly.
If you have hallux valgus, there are corrective orthoses that may relieve your symptoms. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem (especially if it affects quality of life).
5. Maintain good foot hygiene
If your toe or feet are regularly numb, you should have routine foot exams. This will make it possible in particular to ensure good circulation and the absence of wounds. Apply the following foot hygiene tips:
- Be careful when cutting your nails, and go to the podiatrist if necessary
- Inspect your feet daily for wounds, cuts, etc. (especially if you suffer from diabetes)
- Wear adequate socks and well-fitting shoes (not too tight)
- Avoid walking barefoot
- Elevate your legs regularly to promote blood flow
- Perform gentle massages on your feet and toes to stimulate blood circulation. You can also do stretching exercises for the feet and toes.
- Avoid prolonged positions: If you must stand or sit for long periods of time, try to change positions regularly to avoid excessive pressure on nerves and blood vessels.
6. Minimize exposure to cold
Being outside in cold weather, especially if your feet are wet, can cause numbness in your toes.
If toe numbness is aggravated by cold weather, it is important to avoid prolonged exposure to low temperatures. Indeed, this could cause temporary or permanent tissue damage, even going as far as amputation.
7. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help improve blood circulation in the feet and legs. Choose an activity that allows you to feel the benefits without making the pain or numbness worse. For example, try walking, cycling, or other physical activities recommended by your doctor.
What about natural remedies?
Although they are not supported by solid scientific evidence, several natural products and home remedies are used to treat various pains and bodily conditions (like numbness), especially for their anti-inflammatory power.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of plants and essential oils that are effective in controlling pain and inflammation:
- Turmeric : Thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers very powerful, turmeric is one of the most used plants in a culinary and therapeutic context. The composition of turmeric is essentially made of essential oils, vitamins (B1, B2, B6, C, E, K) and trace elements. But it is to its composition rich in curcumin and curcuminoids that we owe them and calm skin of this spice.
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- Ginger : In addition to the special flavor it brings to the kitchen and its aphrodisiac properties, ginger is a root well known for its anti-inflammatory powers. THE gingerol gives it its anti-inflammatory action. It is an active component acting on the inflammatory pain related to chronic joint inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rheumatic diseases, etc. It has been proven that this active element is also effective in acting on the inflammation linked to arthritis and sciatica. Ginger also has other benefits thanks to its high potassium content and its richness in trace elements (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium) and vitamins (provitamin and vitamin B9).
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- Omega-3s : Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids that play a very important role in the functioning of our body. They are provided by food in three natural forms: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Beyond their action on the brain and the cardiovascular system, omega-3s prove very effective against inflammation. Indeed, they have the ability to act on the inflammatory mechanisms in osteoarthritis by slowing down cartilage destruction, thus they reduce the intensity of osteoarthritis pain. Sciatica, being most often linked to an inflammation secondary to a herniated disc, it can also respond to omega-3 provided it is consumed regularly.
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- Lemon eucalyptus: Eucalyptus is a plant most often used in the form of herbal tea or essential oil. She would have anti-inflammatory effects which give it the ability to act on the bone and joint pain in general and the pain of sciatica in particular.
- Eucalyptus Citriodora Essential Oil.
- 100% pure.
- Botanical name: eucalyptus citriodo.
- wintergreen : Wintergreen is a shrub from which a very interesting essential oil is extracted. It is one of the most used essential oils in aromatherapy. This oil extracted from the shrub bearing the same name, is used in massage to relieve sciatica and act like a analgesic. Indeed, it provides a heating effect thanks to its ability toactivate blood circulation locally.
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There are many causes for toe numbness, ranging from mild to potentially serious. The most common causes are nerve or vascular damage.
To find out if numbness is normal, relate your symptoms to your lifestyle. If the toe becomes numb after a strenuous workout (like hiking) or due to an injury, it's probably a normal reaction.
On the other hand, if there is no explanation that could explain the appearance of numbness, it is advisable to consult your doctor. This is especially true if symptoms persist or worsen over time. And if the numb toe is accompanied by visual, respiratory or motor disorders, it is necessary at all costs to consult immediately.
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