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What causes toe numbness? 27 possible conditions

What Is Toe Numbness?

Toe numbness is a symptom that occurs when the sensation in your toes is affected. The effects may be the absence of sensation or tingling and/or burning sensations. This effect can make walking difficult or even painful

Toe numbness can be a temporary symptom, or it can be a chronic symptom for some people. Chronic toe numbness is a concern because it affects your walking abilities and can lead to injuries and wounds you may be unaware of. While toe numbness can be a cause of concern, it’s rarely considered a medical emergency.

What Are the Signs of Toe Numbness?

Toe numbness is an abnormal sensation in the toes that often reduces your ability to feel the ground underneath you or your toes themselves. You may also feel tingling sensations up your legs or in your toes as sensation returns and the numbness goes away. Numbness can also cause a pins-and-needles feeling in your toes. This can occur in only one foot or in both feet depending upon its cause.

What Causes Toe Numbness?

Your body contains a complex network of sensory nerves that provide your sense of touch. When the nerves are pressed, damaged, or irritated, it’s as if a telephone line has been cut and the messages can’t get through. The result is numbness, whether temporary or long-lasting. 

A number of medical conditions can cause toe numbness. These include:

  • alcoholism or chronic alcohol abuse
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • diabetes and diabetic neuropathy
  • frostbite
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • herniated disk
  • multiple sclerosis
  • peripheral arterial disease
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • sciatica
  • shingles
  • spinal cord injury
  • vasculitis or inflammation of the blood vessels

Some people experience exercise-associated toe numbness, especially after engaging in high-impact exercises, such as running or playing a sport. This is because the nerves are frequently compressed while exercising. The numbness should subside fairly quickly after you stop exercising. 

Less commonly, numbness in toes can be a sign of a more serious neurological event. This is the case when you experience sudden numbness on one side of the body. This can be caused by:

  • seizure
  • stroke
  • transient ischemic attack (also known as TIAs)

When Should I Get Medical Help?

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience toe numbness along with any of these symptoms:

  • difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
  • facial drooping
  • inability to think or speak clearly
  • loss of balance
  • muscle weakness
  • toe numbness that occurs after recent head trauma
  • sudden loss of sensation or numbness on one side of your body
  • sudden, severe headache
  • tremors, jerking, or twitching movements

For toe numbness not associated with other symptoms, see your doctor when it becomes uncomfortable or doesn’t go away as it once did. You should also seek medical help if toe numbness starts to worsen.

How Is Toe Numbness Diagnosed?

Your doctor will first take an inventory of your medical history and symptoms before conducting a physical examination. If you’re experiencing stroke- or seizure-like symptoms, the doctor may recommend a CT or MRI scan. These can detect bleeding in the brain that could indicate a stroke.

MRI and CT scans are also used to detect abnormalities in the spine that could indicate sciatica or spinal stenosis.

Your doctor will perform a comprehensive foot exam if your symptoms seem to be concentrated on the feet themselves. This includes testing your abilities to sense temperature and other sensations in the feet.

Other tests include nerve conduction studies, which can detect how well electric current is transmitted through the nerves. Electromyography is another test that determines how muscles respond to electrical stimulation.

How Is Toe Numbness Treated?

Treatments for toe numbness depend upon its underlying cause. Your doctor will recommend medications and treatments to ensure your blood sugar stays at appropriate levels if diabetic neuropathy is the cause. Increasing your physical activity and paying careful attention to your diet can also help.

In addition to these steps, a doctor may prescribe pain-relieving medications. These can include:

  • antidepressants and anticonvulsants to treat diabetic nerve pain, including duloxetine and pregabalin
  • opioids or opioid-like medications, such as oxycodone or tramadol
  • tricyclic antidepressants, including amitriptyline

People with chronic foot numbness should undergo routine foot examinations to check for wounds and foot circulation. Patients with chronic foot numbness should practice excellent foot hygiene, including:

  • cutting toenails straight across or getting toenails cut at a podiatrist’s office
  • inspecting the feet daily for cuts or wounds using a handheld mirror to check the bottom of the feet
  • wearing soft, thick socks that support and cushion the feet
  • wearing well-fitting shoes that allow the toes to move
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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves malfunction because they're damaged or destroyed. You'll notice a tingling, numbness, or weakness, and possibly sweating, constipation, or diarrhea.

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Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal column narrows, gradually compressing the spinal cord. If the narrowing is minimal, symptoms won't occur. Too much narrowing can compress the nerves and cause problems.

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Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

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Intracerebral Hemorrhage

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is when blood suddenly bursts into brain tissue, causing damage to the brain. Symptoms usually appear suddenly during ICH.

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Mononeuropathy is a pathological effect of a single large nerve. It can be caused by injury, nutritional deficiency, or autoimmune condition. Common symptoms are numbness, tingling, or burning.

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Slipped (Herniated) Disk

The vertebrae in your spine are cushioned by disks composed of a hard outer ring with a gelatinous material inside. Injury or weakness can cause the inner portion of the disk to break through the outer portion.

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Beriberi is a term used for vitamin B1, or thiamine, deficiency. Vitamin B1 is found in foods like milk, beans, vegetables, meat, and whole grains.

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Multiple Sclerosis Overview

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. MS can cause varying symptoms that appear with a wide range of severity, from mild discomfort to complete disability.

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Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of types 1 and 2 diabetes due to uncontrolled high blood sugar levels that result in damage to the nerves. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), between 6...

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Hypoparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands in the neck don't produce enough hormone (PTH). Too little PTH causes low calcium and high phosphorus levels in the body. Many of its symptoms concern low calciu...

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Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Vertebrobasilar circulatory disorders are a group of diseases in which not enough blood is supplied to the back of the brain. Symptoms depend on the cause, but may include vision and sleep problems, dizziness, and more.

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Osteomalacia is a weakening of the bones due to problems with bone formation or the bone building process. It is not the same as osteoporosis, which is a weakening of living bone that has already been formed and i...

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Radiculopathy refers to disease of the spinal nerve roots. Radiculopathy produces pain , numbness, or weakness radiating from the spine.

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Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease is a circulation disorder caused by plaque build-up in peripheral arteries. It typically affects the arteries that supply blood to the arms, legs, and organs located below the stomach.

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Megaloblastic Anemia

Megaloblastic anemia is a blood disorder marked by the appearance of very large red blood cells that crowd out healthy cells, causing anemia.

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Necrotizing Vasculitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Necrotizing vasculitis is the inflammation of blood vessel walls. It can interrupt blood flow, causing skin, muscle, and blood vessel damage, and death of tissues and organs. Its symptoms can affect the entire body.

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Leprosy is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection that primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, lining of the nose, and upper respiratory tract. It can cause numbness or dulled sensation.

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder. An infectious disease, like the stomach flu or a lung infection, usually triggers it.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Exposure of the skin to extreme or prolonged cold can result in frostbite. Lesions on the skin are one sign of extreme frostbite.

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Whiplash occurs when a person's head moves backward and then forward very suddenly with great force. This injury is most common following a car collision.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.