Tingling in the feet is a common concern. Many people experience a “pins and needles” sensation in their feet at some point. Often the feet may also feel numb and painful.

This isn’t usually a reason for concern. It may be caused by pressure on the nerves when you’ve been in one position for too long. The feeling should go away when you move.

However, tingling in the feet may be persistent. If the “pins and needles” feeling continues for a long period of time or is accompanied by pain, you should see your doctor. They can help you determine the cause.

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetes is one of the most common causes for persistent tingling in the feet. Diabetic neuropathy is the result of nerve damage caused by high blood sugar.

Symptoms of diabetes include:

Your doctor will take a medical history, complete a physical exam, and run blood tests to determine if you have diabetes or if your diabetes is causing your tingling feet.

Diabetes can be managed with lifestyle changes and several medications, such as insulin.

Pregnancy

It’s not uncommon to experience tingling in your feet during pregnancy. As the uterus grows, it can put pressure on the nerves that run down the legs. This causes a “pins and needles” sensation.

You may be able to relieve the tingling by:

  • resting with your feet up
  • changing positions
  • making sure you’re well hydrated

If the tingling worsens, doesn’t go away, or is accompanied by weakness or swelling, you should see your doctor to make sure nothing serious is going on.

Vitamin deficiency

Not getting enough of certain vitamins, particularly B vitamins, can cause tingling of the feet. Being vitamin deficient can be due to a poor diet or to an underlying condition.

If you’re deficient in vitamin B-12, you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • tingling and coldness in hands and feet
  • headache
  • chest pain
  • digestive issues
  • nausea
  • enlarged liver

Your doctor will take a medical and family history, complete a physical exam, and draw blood to determine if you have a vitamin deficiency.

You may need vitamin supplements or another treatment, depending on the cause of your low vitamin levels.

Kidney failure

Kidney failure may cause tingling in the feet. Kidney failure can have many causes, but the most common are diabetes and high blood pressure.

Symptoms of tingling feet caused by kidney failure include:

  • pain, tingling, and numbness in the legs and feet
  • cramping and muscle twitches
  • “pins and needles” sensation
  • muscle weakness

Your doctor may do a number of tests to determine if kidney failure is the cause of your tingling feet. Tests may include:

Treatment for kidney failure includes dialysis and a kidney transplant.

Autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body attacks itself. A number of autoimmune diseases can cause tingling in the feet. Some of these conditions include:

To determine if an autoimmune disorder is causing the tingling in your feet, your doctor will take a detailed family and medical history, complete a physical exam, and likely run a number of blood tests.

Treatments for autoimmune diseases vary. They may include dietary changes and medications.

Infections

A number of infections can cause inflammation of the nerves. This can lead to tingling of the feet. These infections include:

If you think you may have an infection, you should see your doctor. They’ll take a medical history, complete a physical exam, and likely draw blood to test for infectious diseases.

Treatment will vary depending on what infection you have, but will likely include medication.

Medication use

Some medications can cause tingling in the feet as a side effect. The most common drugs that cause this are those used to fight cancer (chemotherapy) and those used to treat HIV and AIDS. Others include medications to treat:

  • seizures
  • heart conditions
  • high blood pressure

If you’re taking a medication and experiencing tingling in your feet, you should talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to determine if this is a side effect of your medication. They’ll also decide whether your dose needs to be changed.

Pinched nerve

If you have a pinched nerve in your back it can cause tingling in your feet. Pinched nerves may be due to injury or swelling.

You may also experience:

  • pain
  • changes in sensation in your feet
  • decreased range of motion

Your doctor will complete a medical history and physical exam to determine if you have a pinched nerve. They may also complete an EMG to look at muscle activity, or a nerve conduction velocity test. Other tests may include an MRI or ultrasound.

Treatment for a pinched nerve may include:

  • rest
  • medication
  • physical therapy
  • possibly surgery

Toxin exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals and toxins can cause tingling in the feet. They may also cause pain, numbness, weakness, and difficulty walking.

Some toxins that can cause tingling in the feet if they’re swallowed or absorbed through the skin are:

It can be difficult to diagnose toxin exposure as the cause of tingling in the feet. Your doctor will take a medical history, including details about your work and home environment, your diet, and any supplements you take. They may perform other tests, including blood tests.

Treatment may include medications, safety measures, and changing your environmental exposure to toxins at work or home.

Unknown causes

Sometimes people experience tingling in their feet and there’s not a known cause. Doctors call this “idiopathic.”

This condition is most common in people over 60 years old. You may experience symptoms of tingling, pain, numbness, weakness, and unsteadiness when standing or walking.

Your doctor will complete a physical exam and perform a number of tests to rule out anything that could be causing your symptoms.

Treatment may include:

  • pain medication
  • safety measures
  • special shoes

If you experience tingling in your feet that doesn’t go away, gets worse, is accompanied by pain, or keeps you from walking well, you should see a doctor. You may be at risk for falls if you cannot feel your feet properly.

If you experience tingling in your feet accompanied by a severe headache, tingling in your face, or sudden weakness, you should get immediate medical attention. These may be signs of a stroke, which can be life-threatening.