Symptoms of numbness and tingling in the toes can arise from several causative factors. These symptoms can be experienced in all the toes, or select ones depending on the cause. Since numbness of the toes is often indicative of more serious conditions, it is important to know that numbness is an abnormal sign and symptom, and that once identified, should be addressed by a medical professional sooner rather than later.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Diabetes is a devastating and progressive disease that affects all aspects of the human body. The ravages of diabetes can affect the eye with varying degrees of vision problems, especially blindness. The disease also affects tissue healing and circulation.
One complication of this disease is called diabetic neuropathy. This condition manifests itself with the onset and progression of damage and deterioration of peripheral nerves more commonly in the lower extremities, especially in the feet and toes, mainly from chronic elevated blood sugar levels.
The nerves that are typically targeted are the sensory nerves in the feet and toes, those that transmit sensation, as well as nerves that tell the body where its parts are in relationship to space and each other. These are called proprioceptive nerves. Ulcerated sores and other damaging injuries can result from a person's inability to sense abnormal pressure on the toes.
One of the most common problems associated with diabetic neuropathy is the development of ulcerations on the extremities, frequently unknown to the sufferer until the ulcer has become infected and drains, emitting a foul odor.
- Diabetes is a devastating and progressive disease that affects all aspects of the human body.
- One of the most common problems associated with diabetic neuropathy is the development of ulcerations on the extremities, frequently unknown to the sufferer until the ulcer has become infected and drains, emitting a foul odor.
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The cause of numbness in toes does not always have a local source. The source of numbness can develop in places far removed from the toes, such as in the case of nerve impingement in the lumbar spine. This type of nerve pain is related to what is best known as lumbar radiculopathy.
If a person begins to complain of numbness in the toes, this may well be caused by compression of one of the spinal nerves located in the back itself. Not infrequently, a person will complain of this numbness, only to be completely surprised of the origin of the symptoms. Usually, numbness and tingling are experienced in the toes because the pressure upon the nerves in the lumbar spine is severe enough to affect nerve impulse transmission. This is cause to have the problem evaluated as soon as possible to avoid more severe or even long-term loss of sensation in the toes. Usual causes can include bulging or herniated lumbar discs, as well as degenerative bone spurs around the vertebral bones causing direct pressure on the nerve roots exiting the spine.
- The cause of numbness in toes does not always have a local source.
- The source of numbness can develop in places far removed from the toes, such as in the case of nerve impingement in the lumbar spine.
Morton's neuroma refers to a condition in which one of the nerves in the foot that divides and provides sensation to any two toes, becomes inflamed and swollen 1. This can cause a thickened, bulbous growth at the point where the nerve passes through a nearby ligament. As the inflammation progresses and more pressure is exerted upon the nerve, the symptoms of pain, numbness and tingling of the two toes served by the nerve and its branches worsens.
Typical causes of Morton's neuroma include ill-fitting footwear, injury and repetitive stresses to the foot 1.
- Morton's neuroma refers to a condition in which one of the nerves in the foot that divides and provides sensation to any two toes, becomes inflamed and swollen 1.
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- Morton's Neuroma
- Schreiber AK, Nones CF, Reis RC, Chichorro JG, Cunha JM. Diabetic neuropathic pain: Physiopathology and treatment. World J Diabetes. 2015;6(3):432-444. doi:10.4239/wjd.v6.i3.432
- Callaghan BC, Price RS, Feldman EL. Distal symmetric polyneuropathy: A review. JAMA. 2015;314(20):2172-2181. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.13611
- Frykberg RG, Zgonis T, Armstrong DG, et al. Diabetic foot disorders. A clinical practice guideline (2006 revision). J Foot Ankle Surg. 2006;45(5 Suppl):S1-S66. doi:10.1016/S1067-2516(07)60001-5
- American Heart Association. Peripheral Artery Disease and Diabetes. Updated January 31, 2016.
- Gupta N, Arora M, Sharma R, Arora KS. Peripheral and central nervous system involvement in recently diagnosed cases of hypothyroidism: An electrophysiological study. Ann Med Health Sci Res. 2016;6(5):261-266. doi:10.4103/amhsr.amhsr_39_16
- Hypothyroidism (Underactive). American Thyroid Association. Published 2017.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Anemia. 2012.
- Ekabe CJ, Kehbila J, Abanda MH, Kadia BM, Sama C-B, Monekosso GL. Vitamin B12 deficiency neuropathy; a rare diagnosis in young adults: A case report. BMC Res Notes. 2017;10(1):72. doi:10.1186/s13104-017-2393-3
- American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Foot Pain? You May Have Diabetes. Updated October 22, 2008.
- American Diabetes Association. Peripheral Neuropathy.
Ken Chisholm is a freelance writer who began writing in 2007 for LIVESTRONG.COM. He has experience in health care, surgery, nursing and orthopedics as an orthopedic physician assistant and a registered nurse. He holds a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Findlay, Ohio.