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Numbness in Leg and Tingling

Updated on January 30, 2014

All of us know how numbness and tingling sensation in the legs feel like. It is popularly referred to as the ‘legs falling asleep.’ Leg numbness and tingling can be caused due to a number of reasons. A majority of these causes pertain to neurology, which is a study of the nervous system nerve actions and behavior. Some types of diseases and disorders affect the functioning of the nerves, thereby creating numbness and tingling sensations in the legs and other areas of the body.

Tingling can be described as a feeling that is similar to a stack of needles mildly pricking the body at the same time. On most occasions, tingling is experienced along with numbness of the affected area. People usually recount that tingling, often accompanied by numbness, sensations occur after being seated in a particular position for prolonged periods. The major body parts that are affected by such sensations include the legs, feet, arms, and hands.

Leg numbness and tingling sensations are usually caused due to deficient supply of blood to the affected areas. Sitting in a specific position for long durations can hamper the blood supply to the legs, eventually inducing tingling and numbness in legs.

Symptoms that May Accompany Leg Numbness and Tingling

If leg numbness and tingling is accompanied by symptoms such as pain, anxiety, sensitivity, muscle spasms, prickly sensations, mild temporary rashes, or burning sensations, then it may not indicate a serious underlying problem. Such symptoms may usually be caused due to the lack of blood flow to the affected region.

Individuals must however seek medical attention when they experience the below listed symptoms along with numbness and tingling in the legs:

  • Difficulties in walking or moving
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Slurring or other speech problems which result in decreased clarity
  • Short-term paralysis
  • Temporary loss of consciousness which may lead to confusion and disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of ability to control bladder or bowel movements
  • Blurry or double vision

Causes of Leg Numbness and Tingling

One of the major and most common causes of leg numbness and tingling is the lack of sufficient blood supply to the feet and leg muscles. The depleted flow of blood to the legs may occur due to prolonged external pressure, or because of an internal obstruction. The latter may be caused due to varied reasons such as nerve knots, blood clots, or nerve damage, etc.

Some of the specific causes of leg numbness and tingling are listed below:

  • Diabetes: In addition to numerous health complications, diabetes can also cause numbness and tingling sensations in the legs. Most patients of diabetes tend to be overweight, which can in turn prevent adequate blood supply to the legs due to the extra weight on the lower limbs. Unregulated diabetes can also result in diabetic neuropathy which can again cause tingling and numbness in the legs. Patients may take necessary steps to manage their weight and keep the disease under control so as to avoid the abnormal sensations in their legs.
  • Nervous system abnormalities: Humans are able to feel all forms of sensations such as pain, heat, cold, etc. because of the nervous system. It sends, receives, and interprets signals from different parts of the body, which is what causes all the different sensations. Any damage, injury, or problems of the nervous system which hinder it from efficiently carrying out the above discussed functions can lead to numbness in different regions of the body, including the legs.The nervous system may experience problems due to alcoholism, drug abuse, intake of certain medicines, etc., as well as presence of certain underlying conditions such as tumors, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, etc.
  • Stroke and cardiac problems: A heart attack, angina, and other cardiac problems can affect the flow of blood to different parts of the body due to damaged nerves, blood clots, etc. This in turn can cause leg numbness and tingling. Numbness of the legs can also serve as a warning for stroke. Hence, patients who experience numbness and tingling in the legs along with other cardiac-related symptomsmust seek immediate medical care.
  • External factors: There are a number of external factors which can also cause leg numbness and tingling. The use of shoes that are a size too small, tight-fitting pants, and a cast that is uncomfortable or wound too tight can obstruct the free flow of blood to the legs and cause numbness and tingling. Extreme temperatures can also lead to numbness of the legs. For example, when your legs are exposed to extreme cold weather or cold water, then they may become numb.
  • Other causes: Leg numbness and tingling may also arise due to presence of certain conditions such as deficiency of vitamin B12, back injuries, metal poisoning, osteoporosis, and hypothyroidism.

Treatment of Leg Numbness and Tingling

The treatment of numbness and tingling sensations in the legs is aimed at finding out the cause of the condition and remedying it. It is therefore essential to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

  • Diabetes can be treated with insulin therapy, changes in diet and lifestyle, and intake of medications.
  • Injuries and problems of the nervous system have to be treated by a neurologist. A cardiologist will recommend relevant treatment options for heart problems. Other underlying diseases may be treated as per the available treatment options.
  • If the sensations are caused due to prolonged seating in a particular position, then patients should ensure that they take a break from their sedentary work-life so as to allow the blood to keep flowing freely. You may keep moving the legs when seated, or you may walk for a few minutes after being seated in a specific position for 30 minutes or more.
  • If the leg numbness and tingling is caused as a side-effect of certain medications, then consult a doctor for alternative drugs. If it is caused due to exposure to cold, then make sure that you wear adequate clothing to keep the body warm.
  • Individuals can protect against tingling and numbness of the legs by regularly exercising, consuming a healthy and varied diet, and making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking.

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    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 3 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear medicalhub,

      Thank you for an interesting, well written and researched article on a common problem, we all take as common place without considering the question of the cause. Teens in particular will sit for hours without moving while they play a video game and perhaps do untold damage to their circulatory system.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

      Kind regards Peter

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