Neuropathy is nerve damage. Numbness and tingling in the feet and legs usually signal neuropathy. Later symptoms include weakness and pain. There are many possible causes of neuropathy in the lower extremities.
Neuropathy can be acquired or inherited. Many people who have neuropathy in the feet and legs have developed this condition as a complication of diabetes.
Some inherited disorders cause nerve damage in the feet and legs. The most common of these is Charcot-Marie-Tooth, which causes extreme weakening and numbness of muscles in the legs and feet.
Risk factors for developing neuropathy in the legs and feet include diabetes, alcoholism and vitamin deficiencies. Some infections, such as HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis and Guillain-Barre syndrome, can lead to neuropathy.
Neuropathy can be caused by external factors such as exposure to toxic substances. It can also be caused by physical trauma or prolonged pressure on a nerve.
According to the Neuropathy Association, almost a third of neuropathy cases are considered idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown.