Numb pinky toe quiz
Take a quiz to find out what's causing your numb pinky toe.
Nerve compression or damage from wearing certain shoes can often cause numbness or tingling in your pinky toe. Diabetic neuropathy and MS are some of the conditions that can also cause the pinky or all toes to feel numb or have a pins and needles sensation.
6 most common causes
What is toe numbness?
Numbness is when you no longer have sensation in a body part. Tingling is when the blood flow is partially cut off and it feels like “pins and needles.” It can happen when you put pressure on the area, like from too tight shoes that squeeze the pinky toe. Or standing too long. But when numbness in your toes is not going away or keeps coming back, you should see a care provider.
Symptoms of toe numbness
- Burning or tingling
- Pins and needles sensation
- Coordination issues or falling
- Coldness or sensitivity to touch
- Sores on the toes and feet that take long to heal
What causes it?
Toe numbness can be from an injury, compression, or irritation of a nerve in your foot or leg. There are many kinds of nerves in the foot and small blood vessels in the leg that are responsible for blood flow and sensation throughout the foot. The cause of numbness in the toe can be from many different conditions.
1. Diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is when there is damage to nerve fibers in the extremities (like the toes, feet, and hands) from high blood sugar (glucose). Anyone with diabetes is at risk for peripheral neuropathy, but being overweight or a smoker increases your risk even more.
- Pain, numbness, and burning in the hands, arms, feet, and legs
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Infections, deformities, and pain in the bones and joints of the feet
Treatment and urgency Peripheral neuropathy can have very serious complications. A high blood sugar count can interfere with your body’s ability to heal. It may take longer for an infection or a wound to get better. It can lead to ulcerated sores, gangrene, and, at the most extreme case, amputation. For this reason, signs of peripheral neuropathy are considered a medical emergency and you should see a medical provider as soon as possible.
A diagnosis is made through sensitivity tests and nerve conduction studies.
While there isn’t a cure for diabetic neuropathy, you can manage your symptoms to slow the disease and help restore feeling to the toes and feet. Treatment will include lifestyle changes and medication.
2. Morton neuroma
Morton neuroma (also called Morton's neuroma) is a thickening of fibrous tissue in the ball of the foot. This tissue covers the nerve leading to the third and fourth toes, but numbness may be felt in other toes like the pinky.
The thickening is from years of trauma, irritation, and compression to the feet. High-heeled shoes, especially if narrow or tight, are a common cause. Women over age 45 are more likely to get Morton neuroma.
- Toe and foot numbness
- Burning pain in the ball of the foot, especially when walking or running
- Pain when touching the foot
Treatment and urgency Morton neuroma does not heal on its own, but making some changes—like getting better fitting shoes—can help it get better. Otherwise, the pain can sometimes become chronic.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination of the foot with simple range of motion exercises and sometimes an X-ray.
Treatment includes changing to better-fitting shoes that do not compress the nerve. Taking pressure off the nerve by using orthotics in your shoes to relieve nerve pressure. You may need corticosteroid injections to help with inflammation.
3. Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease of the central nervous system. The body's immune system attacks nerve fibers and their myelin covering. This causes irreversible scarring called "sclerosis," which interferes with the transmission of signals between the brain and the body. You may notice numbness and weakness in your toes, feet, arms, and other areas of the body.
- Numbness or weakness in arms, legs, toes, or body
- Partial or total loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Tingling or shock-like sensation, especially in the neck
- Coordination problems
Treatment and urgency It is not known what causes MS, but it may be related to a genetic predisposition. The disease usually appears between ages 20 to 50 and is far more common in women than in men. Other risk factors include family history, viral infections like Epstein-Barr, having other autoimmune diseases, and smoking.
Diagnosis is based on patient history, neurological examination, blood tests, MRI, and sometimes a spinal tap.
There is no cure for MS, but treatment with corticosteroids and plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) can slow the course of the disease and manage symptoms for better quality of life.
4. Mechanical low back pain with sciatica
Sciatica is a general term describing any shooting leg pain that begins at the spine and travels down the outside of the leg. It is also called pinched nerve, lumbar radiculopathy, sciatic neuralgia, sciatic neuritis, or sciatic neuropathy.
The most common cause is a herniated or "slipped" disc in the lower spine. This means some of the cushioning material inside the disc has been forced outward and is pressing on a nerve root. Spasms of the piriformis muscle around the sciatic nerve, as well as the narrowing of the spinal canal called spinal stenosis, can also cause sciatica.
- Shooting leg pain that begins suddenly or develops gradually
- Weakness, numbness, and pins and needles sensation
- In severe cases, there may be difficulty moving the foot or bending the knee.
Diagnosis is based on patient history, physical examination, and simple leg-raise tests.
Treatment and urgency Treatment involves physical therapy, OTC anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants. In some cases, corticosteroid spinal injections and surgery may be tried. Massage and acupuncture can sometimes help.
5. Peroneal (fiber) nerve injury
The fibular nerves, also known as the peroneal nerves, run from the lower spine all the way down the back of the leg, ending at the heel. The peroneal nerve can get damaged after an injury to the leg like a dislocated knee, a broken bone, or surgery complication. If the nerve is damaged or compressed, it can cause a condition called foot drop.
When you have foot drop, you cannot flex the foot upward from the ankle, because the fibular nerves that control this movement have been damaged. There may also be pain, numbness and weakness in the foot, including the toes, and difficulty walking.
- Tingling along the outer edge of the leg and thigh, the area between the big toe and second toe, and the top of your foot
- Feet and legs may become numb.
- Difficulty moving feet and legs, including walking
- Not able to move the foot in different directions
- Foot drop
Diagnosis is made with a physical examination, nerve conduction studies, and imaging like an X-ray or MRI.
Treatment involves using orthotics in your shoes, supports, and braces for the foot. You may want to try physical therapy. Sometimes, surgery is needed to decompress and help repair the nerve.
6. Chronic idiopathic peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy refers to the feeling of numbness, tingling, and pins and needles sensation in the feet. Idiopathic means the cause is not known. And chronic means the condition is ongoing without getting better or worse.
People over age 60 are more likely to get this type of neuropathy. The cause is not known.
- Numbness and tingling in the toes and feet
- Difficulty standing or walking due to pain and lack of normal sensitivity
- Weakness and cramping in the muscles of the feet and ankles
- Muscle aches
- Joint stiffness
Treatment and urgency Peripheral neuropathy can be very uncomfortable and start to interfere with your daily life. You should see a medical provider for treatment.
Diagnosis is made through a physical examination, blood tests to rule out other conditions, and neurologic and muscle studies like electromyography.
Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription pain relievers if pain is severe. You may want to see a physical therapist for help with managing loss of sensation in the feet. You may also want to get therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.
Questions your doctor may ask about numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot
- Are you having any difficulty walking?
- Do any of your body parts (e.g., toes, hands, ears) feel cold?
- The provider may ask you to do the straight leg test. While lying down on a firm surface, keep both legs straight. The provider will slowly raise one leg at a time by lifting your ankle into the air. You will be asked if you feel pain in that leg before fully raising it to a perpendicular position?
Numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot symptom checker statistics
People who have experienced numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot have also experienced:
- 25% Toe numbness
- 12% Numbness in the heel side of the foot
- 12% Lower back pain
People who have experienced numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot were most often matched with:
- 75% Diabetic neuropathy
- 25% Morton neuroma
People who have experienced numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot had symptoms that lasted for:
- 37% Less than a day
- 27% Over a month
- 19% Less than a week
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