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Understand your numbness in the top of the foot symptoms, including 9 causes & common questions.
9 most common causes
9 causes of numbness in the top of the foot
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space that lies on the inside of the ankle next to the ankle bones. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression, or squeezing, on an important nerve called the posterior tibial nerve. This compression produces symptoms anywhere along the path of the nerve running from the inside of the ankle into the foot.
You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Tarsal tunnel syndrome is treated with pain medication, corticosteroid injections, stretching, icing, physical therapy, and also special orthotic inserts for shoes.
Stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack)
Transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is sometimes called a "mini stroke" or a "warning stroke." Any stroke means that blood flow somewhere in the brain has been blocked by a clot.
Risk factors include smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, though anyone can experience a TIA.
Symptoms are "transient," meaning they come and go within minutes because the clot dissolves or moves on its own. Stroke symptoms include weakness, numbness, and paralysis on one side of the face and/or body; slurred speech; abnormal vision; and sudden, severe headache.
A TIA does not cause permanent damage because it is over quickly. However, the patient must get treatment because a TIA is a warning that a more damaging stroke is likely to occur. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.
Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; CT scan or MRI; and electrocardiogram.
Treatment includes anticoagulant medication to prevent further clots. Surgery to clear some of the arteries may also be recommended.
Top Symptoms: dizziness, leg numbness, arm numbness, new headache, stiff neck
Symptoms that never occur with stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack): bilateral weakness
Urgency: Emergency medical service
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.
By far 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.
Symptoms include shooting leg pain that begins suddenly or develops gradually. There may be weakness, numbness, and a pins-and-needles sensation. In severe cases, there may be difficulty moving the foot or bending the knee.
Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and simple leg-raise tests.
Treatment involves physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants. In some cases, corticosteroid spinal injections and surgery may be tried. Massage and acupuncture are also sometimes helpful.
Morton neuroma, also called by the older name Morton's neuroma, is a thickening of fibrous tissue in the ball of the foot. This tissue encapsulates the nerve leading to the third and fourth toes.
It is not actually a tumor of the nerve, as the name suggests. The thickening is caused by years of trauma, irritation, and/or compression to the feet. High-heeled shoes, especially if narrow or tight, are a common cause. The condition is most often seen in women over age 45.
Symptoms include burning pain in the ball of the foot, especially with walking or running. The condition will not heal on its own and can lead to chronic foot pain.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination of the foot with simple range of motion exercises, and sometimes x-ray.
Treatment includes changing to better-fitting shoes that do not compress the nerve; using orthotics in the shoes to take more pressure off of the nerve; and in some cases the use of corticosteroid injections.
Top Symptoms: foot numbness, pain in the sole of the foot, pain when touching the foot, pain in both feet, foot injury
Low calcium level
Hypocalcemia is a condition where there is not enough calcium in the blood. Calcium is a mineral contained in the blood and helps the heart and other muscles function properly. It is also needed to maintain healthy teeth and bones. Low calcium levels can cause bones to become brittle and more easily fractured. Parathyroid issues and vitamin D deficiency are common causes of this condition.
You should consider visiting a medical professional to discuss your symptoms. Low calcium levels can be evaluated with a review of your symptoms and a blood test. Once diagnosed, treatment depends on the cause of your low calcium levels.
Top Symptoms: fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, general numbness, tingling foot
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the damage done to nerve fibers in the extremities by abnormally high blood sugar. Anyone with diabetes is at risk for peripheral neuropathy, especially if the person is overweight and/or a smoker.
Symptom include pain, numbness, and burning in the hands, arms, feet, and legs; muscle weakness; loss of balance and coordination; and infections, deformities, and pain in the bones and joints of the feet.
Peripheral neuropathy can develop very serious complications, since the high blood glucose prevents any infection or damage from healing as it should. This can lead to ulcerated sores, gangrene, and amputation. For this reason, signs of peripheral neuropathy are considered a medical emergency and the person should see a medical provider as soon as possible.
Diagnosis is made through sensitivity tests and nerve conduction studies.
There is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, but the symptoms can be managed in order to slow the disease and help restore function. Treatment will include lifestyle improvements and the use of pain medication.
Acute compartment syndrome describes the damage done to certain muscle groups of the arms or legs after a traumatic injury.
All of the long muscles are bundled into sections – "compartments" – by the white sheets of strong, tough connective tissue called fascia. If something interferes with circulation so that blood flow is trapped within the compartment, pressure rises because the fascia cannot stretch. This causes serious damage to the muscles and other tissues within the compartment.
Acute compartment syndrome is caused by a broken bone; a crush injury; burns, due to scarred and tightened skin; and bandages or casts applied before an injury has stopped swelling.
Symptoms can rapidly intensify. They include severe pain and tightness in the muscle; tingling or burning sensation; and sometimes numbness and weakness.
Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency which can result in loss of the limb. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.
Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination.
Treatment involves hospitalization for emergency surgery and, in some cases, skin graft.
Top Symptoms: arm numbness, hand numbness, foot numbness, pain in one leg, thigh numbness
Urgency: Hospital emergency room
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.
The condition is most often found in people over age 60. Idiopathic neuropathy has no known cause.
Symptoms include uncomfortable numbness and tingling in the feet; difficulty standing or walking due to pain and lack of normal sensitivity; and weakness and cramping in the muscles of the feet and ankles.
Peripheral neuropathy can greatly interfere with quality of life, so a medical provider should be seen in order to treat the symptoms and reduce the discomfort.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests to rule out other conditions; and neurologic and muscle studies such as electromyography.
Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers; prescription pain relievers to manage more severe pain; physical therapy and safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation in the feet; and therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.
Top Symptoms: distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Chemotherapy-induced nerve damage
Chemotherapy has many effects on the body. Some types of chemotherapy can cause irritation of the nerves in ones hands and feet, resulting in symptoms like pain, numbness or tingling.
You should discuss your symptoms with your oncologist.
Top Symptoms: muscle aches, distal numbness, pain in both hands, pain in both feet, numbness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Questions your doctor may ask about numbness in the top of the foot
- While lying down on a firm surface, keep both legs straight. Have a friend slowly raise one leg at a time by lifting your ankle into the air. Do you have pain in that leg before fully raising it to a perpendicular position? (This is called the straight leg test.)
- Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric issue, such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder?
- Do any of your body parts (e.g., toes, hands, ears) feel cold?
- Are you having any difficulty walking?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Numbness in the top of the foot symptom checker statistics
People who have experienced numbness in the top of the foot have also experienced:
- 8% Pain In The Top Of The Foot
- 6% Toe Numbness
- 5% Ankle Numbness
People who have experienced numbness in the top of the foot were most often matched with:
- 66% Low Calcium Level
- 16% Morton Neuroma
- 16% Sciatica
People who have experienced numbness in the top of the foot had symptoms persist for:
- 37% Less than a day
- 27% Over a month
- 19% Less than a week
Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.
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