Sudden leg weakness can occur with an injury or due to a serious underlying medical condition, such as multiple sclerosis, a stroke, or other health conditions. You may experience additional symptoms.
Sudden leg weakness can be a sign of a serious underlying health issue and should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. In some cases, it may indicate a medical condition that requires emergency care.
Here we’ll discuss 11 common causes of leg weakness and other symptoms you need to know.
A slipped disc occurs when the gel-like substance inside the discs that cushion your vertebrae protrudes through a tear in the exterior, causing pain. This can happen because of injury or age-related degenerative changes in the spine.
If the slipped disc compresses a nearby nerve, it can cause pain and numbness along the affected nerve, often down your leg.
Other symptoms include:
- muscle weakness
- pain that’s worse when standing or sitting
- tingling or burning sensation in the affected area
See a doctor if neck or back pain extends down your arm or leg or you experience numbness, tingling, or weakness. Conservative treatment, including rest followed by physical therapy, usually relieves symptoms within
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is cut off because of a blockage, or a blood vessel in the brain bursts. It can cause sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs.
Other signs and symptoms of stroke include:
- sudden confusion
- difficulty speaking
- sudden, severe headache
- drooping of one side of the face or uneven smile
If you or someone else is having a stroke, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately. Prompt treatment is vital to recovering from a stroke. Early treatment can reduce the risk of long-term complications.
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your nerves, causing tingling and weakness that usually begins in the feet and legs. The weakness can spread quickly and eventually paralyze your whole body if not treated right away.
Other GBS symptoms can
- prickling or pins and needles sensations in your wrists, fingers, ankles, and toes
- severe pain that worsens at night
- difficulty with eye or facial movements
- problems controlling your bladder or bowels
What causes GBS isn’t known, but an infection, such as stomach flu or a respiratory infection, usually triggers it.
See a doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms. There’s no cure, but there are treatments that can relieve symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. In MS, your immune system attacks myelin, the protective sheath around your nerves. Most diagnoses occur in people ages 20 to 50.
MS can cause a wide range of symptoms that vary from person to person. Numbness and fatigue are the most common symptoms. Other symptoms
Sciatica, which results from a pinched nerve in your lower back, is pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve. It’s the
Sciatica can range from a dull ache to sharp burning pain, and worsen with prolonged sitting or sneezing. You may also experience leg numbness and weakness.
Get emergency care if you experience sudden, severe pain in your lower back or leg accompanied by muscle weakness or numbness, or trouble controlling your bladder or bowels, which is a sign of cauda equina syndrome.
Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage to your body’s peripheral nervous system, which connects the nerves from your central nervous system to the rest of your body.
Symptoms usually start with numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, but can spread to other parts of your body. Other symptoms
- pain that worsens at night
- burning or freezing sensation
- sharp, lightning-like pain
- difficulty walking
Treatment depends on the cause of the nerve damage and may begin with treating an underlying condition. Prescription medications and different therapies are also available.
Symptoms develop gradually over the years. Problems with movement are usually the first symptoms. Other Parkinson’s disease symptoms include:
- small handwriting or other writing changes
- slow movement (bradykinesia)
- limb stiffness
- problems with balance or walking
- voice changes
Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a neuromuscular disorder that causes weakness in your voluntary skeletal muscles. It can affect people of any age but is
- muscle weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
- drooping eyelids
- double vision
- trouble speaking
- difficulty swallowing or chewing
There’s no cure for MG, but early treatment can limit disease progression and help improve muscle weakness. Treatment is typically a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and sometimes surgery.
A spinal lesion or tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue within or surrounding your spinal cord or column. Spinal tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous. They can originate in the spine or spinal column or spread there from another site.
The most common symptom is back pain which worsens at night or increases with activity. If the tumor presses on a nerve, it can cause numbness or weakness in the arms, legs, or chest.
Treatment depends on the type and location of the lesion or tumor and whether or not it’s cancerous. Options to resolve leg weakness include:
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a progressive neurological disease that damages nerve cells and often begins with muscle twitching and leg weakness.
Other early symptoms
- difficulty walking or performing daily tasks
- trouble swallowing
- slurred speech
- difficulty holding up your head
There’s currently no cure for ALS, but treatments are available that can help control symptoms and complications and improve quality of life.
Toxic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by toxins, such as:
It affects the nerves of your arms and hands or legs and feet, causing nerve pain, numbness or tingling, and weakness that can lead to loss of movement.
Treatment involves medication to relieve nerve pain and limiting exposure to the toxin.
Leg weakness always needs a doctor’s evaluation as it may be due to a serious underlying condition that requires treatment.
Get emergency medical care if:
- Your weakness is accompanied by sudden, severe pain in your back or leg.
- You experience loss of bladder or bowel control.
- You or someone else experiences any warning signs of a stroke.
Sudden leg weakness could indicate a serious medical issue, such as a stroke. Head to the nearest emergency room or call 911 if you’re not sure what’s going on.
Other conditions can also cause leg weakness or difficulty walking. See a doctor as soon as possible if you experience leg weakness, numbness or tingling, or changes to how you walk.