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Tingling Lower Leg Symptoms

Lower leg tingling is a common complaint that drives many people to their doctors in search of relief. It can be caused by a variety of issues including medical conditions that affect the whole body or conditions that affect the nerves and nervous system. Typically the cause of lower leg tingling is not obvious and requires some investigation by your medical provider. While some causes of lower leg tingling can be managed with simple treatments, others require immediate medical attention and professional treatment.

Characteristics

Symptoms that can be associated with lower leg tingling include:

Duration

The duration of your lower leg tingling can vary depending on the cause.

  • Lower leg tingling can resolve on its own over time, usually within days to a few weeks, if it is due to a nerve injury that heals over time.
  • Lower leg tingling can also be chronic, lasting for several weeks or indefinitely.
  • Lower leg tingling that comes on suddenly is more concerning and should be evaluated by a medical provider.

Is my tingling lower leg serious?

Lower leg tingling can vary in severity and can be evaluated by the following.

  • Stroke symptoms: If your lower leg tingling is sudden in onset and associated with numbness, weakness/paralysis, arm numbness, vision problems, trouble with balancing or trouble speaking, these may be symptoms of a stroke [1] and you should immediately seek medical attention.
  • Spinal nerve compression: If your tingling lower leg is also associated with sudden, severe back pain, trouble with balancing, sudden changes in bladder or bowel control, and numbness or weakness in one or both legs, buttocks, inner thighs or back of your legs, these could be symptoms suggesting your spinal nerves are being compressed and you should seek medical attention immediately.
  • If it occurs with the absence of other severe symptoms: If your lower leg tingling is not severe and not associated with any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it may not require immediate medical attention, but you should talk about your symptoms with a medical provider to identify the cause and best course of treatment.

Tingling Lower Leg Causes Overview

There are many potential causes for lower leg tingling. They typically fall into the categories of neurological injury caused by damage to the nerves or spinal cord, systemic diseases that affect the whole body, or medication side effects. How serious the lower leg tingling is and how soon to seek medical attention depends on the cause.

Neurological injuries

Causes that are more severe due to a neurological injury may include the following.

  • Stroke: A stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked. Depending on which part of the brain is starved for blood flow/oxygen, the symptoms may be different. Sometimes strokes cause leg tingling, numbness, weakness or paralysis along with other symptoms like arm tingling/weakness/numbness, vision problems, trouble with balancing or trouble speaking. If you have any of these symptoms you should seek immediate medical attention.
  • Slipped disk: In between the bones that form your backbone are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance that keep the individual bones of your backbone in place [2]. When a disk ruptures and the jelly-like substance bulges out, it can press on one of the nerves coming out of your spinal cord. Usually bulging or slipping of disks occurs when you strain your back when lifting heavy furniture or exercising. A slipped disk can irritate the nerves going to your lower legs and this irritation can cause lower leg tingling.
  • Spinal stenosis: The spinal cord is protected and surrounded by the bones that form your backbone. It travels through a canal formed by these bones, and over time, especially with age, this canal can become more narrow [3]. If the narrowing occurs in the lower back, it can put pressure on the nerves that come out of your spine. When this occurs, you can experience leg tingling, numbness, weakness and pain/cramping in your leg(s) with standing or walking that gets better with bending forward or sitting.
  • Sciatica: When a slipped disk or spinal stenosis affects the sciatic nerve (a nerve which branches from your lower back and travels through your hips, buttocks and down each leg), you can have symptoms of sciatica [4]. Sciatica pain radiates from the lower back to the buttocks and down the back of your leg(s) — depending on which sciatic nerve is irritated — and can also be felt as a shock-like or burning sensation. Sciatica can also be associated with tingling, numbness, and weakness in the affected leg(s).
  • Tumor or abnormal growth: Abnormal growths or tumors can put pressure on the spine as it travels through the spinal canal. Tumors or growths in the lower back can irritate the spine or nerves coming out of the spine and can result in lower leg tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain.
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS): Restless leg syndrome causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs accompanied by an irresistible urge to move the legs, typically starting in the late afternoon but most severe in the night when at rest [5]. These sensations can include tingling, burning, itching, aching and/or a creepy-crawly feeling and can make falling asleep or staying asleep difficult, especially because the discomfort is typically relieved by moving the legs or walking.

Systemic diseases

Other underlying diseases can lead to feelings of tingling in the lower leg, such as:

  • Vitamin deficiency or electrolyte imbalance: An improperly balanced diet leading to vitamin deficiencies, especially in vitamin B, can lead to nerve damage causing lower leg tingling. In addition, some kidney and liver problems can cause a buildup or reduction in electrolytes (like potassium, calcium, and magnesium) that can result in nerve damage and lower leg tingling.
  • Diabetes mellitus: Diabetes can cause a type of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy, which causes numbness, tingling and/or burning in the feet, and when severe, the legs as well.
  • Blood vessel problems: Medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes as well as smoking can cause a narrowing or partial blockage of the blood vessels in your leg(s), leading to a decreased oxygen supply to your nerves. This is known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). When this occurs, nerve damage can manifest as numbness, tingling, weakness, pain and/or a burning sensation in different nerves of your body, including the ones that go to your legs.
  • Autoimmune diseases: An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system — which usually works to protect you against diseases and infections — instead starts to attack the healthy cells that make up your body [6]. Some autoimmune diseases, like Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Guillain-Barre Syndrome [7] attack the nerves and are sometimes associated with recent viral infections. They can cause leg numbness, tingling, weakness and sometimes paralysis.
  • Infectious diseases: Some infectious diseases can cause nerve damage either by stimulating autoimmune attacks (see above) or by attacking the nerves directly. Most infectious diseases that lead to nerve damage are viral and include West Nile virus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV). Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect the nerves.

Medications, drugs or toxins

Many medications, drugs, and toxins can cause unpleasant effects — lower leg tingling is one possibility. Certain chemotherapy drugs cause damage to the nerves in the arms and legs and can be associated with leg tingling. Excessive alcohol intake can also lead to nerve damage long-term. Exposure to toxins like lead, mercury, and arsenic can also lead to tingling in the lower leg(s).

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Tingling Lower Leg

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced tingling lower leg. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Herniated (Slipped) Disk in the Lower Back

    The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.

    The pain associated with a slipped disk usually goes away within six weeks. If the pain lasts longer, consult a doctor. They may send you to see a back specialist for an MRI of your spine, and surgery may be considered.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Restless Legs Syndrome (Rls)

    Restless Legs Syndrome is a common condition characterized by an urge to move the legs in order to stop unpleasant sensations.

    RLS is a chronic and incurable condition, but many have their symptoms improve with treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    daytime sleepiness, trouble sleeping, tingling lower leg, restless legs, difficulty falling asleep
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Vertebral Osteomyelitis

    Infection of the spinal bones (Vertebral Osteomyelitis) is caused by the spread of bacteria through the blood from another body part that lands in the spine. It's typically caused by bugs named Staph. Aureus (40-50% of the time), streptococci (12%), e.coli (9%), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (6%).

    6 weeks of antibiotics typically clears things up

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    upper back pain, spontaneous neck or back pain, fever, foot numbness, upper leg numbness
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Fibular Nerve Injury

    Fibular nerve injury can be caused by a wide range of factors, including trauma, surgery, weight loss, and others.

    1 Day

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in the distribution of fibular nerve, numbness in fibular nerve distribution, difficulty walking or weakness with foot dorsiflexion
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  5. 5.Diabetic Neuropathy

    Diabetic neuropathy is a condition where pain, numbness, weakness, and motor loss occur in the limbs due to the effects of diabetes on the nerves.

    Symptoms can last a lifetime.

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, depressed mood, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, fatigue
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.Stroke or Tia (Transient Ischemic Attack)

    A stroke is a medical emergency. Strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is stopped.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
  7. 7.Chronic Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy

    Nerve damage in the limbs can be caused by diabetes, toxic substances, immune system issues and low vitamin levels. However, in about one of every four cases no cause can be found and then the condition is called 'idiopathic'. Symptoms of nerve damage can be (burning) pain sensations, numbness, tingling and weakness in hands, feet or lower legs.

    This is a chronic condition.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Peripheral Arterial Disease (Pad)

    Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when the big blood vessels, called arteries, become too narrow due to clumps of fat (called plaques) building up inside the walls. If arteries become too narrow, not enough oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the muscles, skin, and organs. The arteries in the legs are often affected first, as they are the furthest from the heart.At first, PAD has no symptoms. As it gets worse, leg pain is likely to develop, leading to cramps in the calf, thigh, foot, or buttock upon exercise. PAD can also increase the risk of a blood clot if a piece of plaque detaches, leading to serious complications such as a heart attack or stroke.Peripheral artery disease is much more common in smokers and in people with diabetes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, and not getting much exercise also can put one at higher risk.

    The prognosis of this disease is highly variable and depends heavily on habits, medical history, and genetics. Peripheral artery disease is a chronic non-life threatening condition. Managing the disease, however, is very important in reducing the risk for stroke and heart attacks, so make sure to follow-up with a physician.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    leg numbness, spontaneous foot pain, decreased exercise tolerance, cold feet, thigh pain
    Symptoms that never occur with peripheral arterial disease (pad):
    calf pain from an injury, thigh pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Multiple Sclerosis (Ms)

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is involved in carrying nerve signals so this damage causes interruptions in nerve signaling.

    This is a lifelong condition; however, treatment may be beneficial.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    severe fatigue, constipation, numbness, decreased sex drive, signs of optic neuritis
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Tingling Lower Leg Treatments and Relief

Some causes of lower leg tingling can be managed with at-home treatments while others require evaluation and treatment by a medical professional.

At-home treatments

Treatments that can begin at-home include:

  • Heating or cooling pads: Warmth or coolness can both help soothe tingling legs, especially if your leg tingling is associated with sore muscles or swelling from an injury.
  • Rest: Some causes of lower leg tingling, especially those associated with injury or straining like spinal stenosis, slipped disk, and sciatica, improve withrest.If your lower leg tingling is associated with blood vessel blockage, rest will also provide some relief.
  • Exercise: While some causes of lower leg tingling improve with rest, others like blood vessel blockage may improve over time by steadily and gradually increasing exercise. Exercise increases blood flow and strengthens blood vessels.
  • Healthy, balanced diet: Lower leg tingling associated with nutritional deficiencies can be treated and prevented with a diet sufficient in nutrients and vitamins, especially the B vitamins like thiamine, B12, and folic acid. B vitamins can be found in fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy products, leafy green vegetables, beans and peas [8]. Exercise and a healthy diet can also prevent some common causes of leg tingling like diabetes, stroke, and blood vessel problems from high blood pressure.
  • Smoking cessation: Smoking has a long list of associated medical conditions like diabetes, stroke, and blood vessel problems from high blood pressure that can lead to lower leg tingling.

Medications

A medical provider may prescribe medications to help with nerve tingling, such as:

  • Corticosteroids: These can help reduce inflammation-associated leg tingling, like the kind that happens with Multiple Sclerosis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome and other autoimmune disorders. They can be prescribed in the form of a pill or injected into spots where inflammation is causing pain around your spine or nerves.
  • Nerve blocks: Medications that block or interfere with the signaling in your nerves like gabapentin and pregabalin can help reduce tingling.
  • Antivirals or antibiotics: These medications can help if your medical provider thinks the cause of your lower leg tingling is due to a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Other medications: These may be required to treat the underlying condition causing your leg pain, such as medication for diabetes, high blood pressure, liver or kidney problems, or medications that increase or encourage blood flow.

Other medical treatments

Depending on the cause and other complications related to your lower leg tingling, you may require further medical treatment that can be recommended by your physician.

  • Physical therapy: If your leg tingling is due to back strain and/or nerve injury, your medical provider may recommend physical therapy to aid in the healing process.
  • Surgery: In some cases,surgeryis recommended if other methods of treatment have not helped. Surgeries for spinal stenosis, slipped disk, sciatica, and tumors/abnormal growths focus on creating more room within the spinal canal or relieving pressure on any pinched nerves that are causing nerve damage and associated tingling, pain, weakness or paralysis.

FAQs About Tingling Lower Leg

Here are some frequently asked questions about tingling lower leg.

Why does my lower leg tingling occur with walking or exercise?

Lower leg tingling with walking can be associated with diseases that affect the blood vessels in your legs. Claudication is the term used to describe pain or tingling in your lower legs with walking, caused by a partial blockage of the blood vessels in your legs. When you walk or exercise, the muscles and nerves in your legs need more blood flow, and when blood flow is blocked, you can feel a cramping, aching and/or tingling pain.

What does it mean if my lower leg tingling gets worse with exercise?

Lower leg tingling that worsens with walking or exercise may also be due to a spinal issue. Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal cord and a slipped/herniated disk occurs when the soft, jelly-like substance between the bones of your backbone bulges out and creates pressure on the spine or a nerve. Either of these problems can cause lower leg tingling that is worse with movement and better with rest.

Why does my lower leg tingling get worse at night or when I lay down?

Lower leg tingling that is worse at night, with rest, or while lying down may be due to restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is characterized by uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations in the leg(s) that may be tingling, burning, itching, aching or a creepy-crawly feeling. These sensations cause an urge to move the legs when lying down, and usually, movement decreases the symptoms of RLS. Peripheral artery disease due to a narrowing or blockage in the blood vessels in your legs can also cause worsening leg tingling and/or pain at nightbecause when lying down, the blood flow to your legs decreases even more.

How can I tell if my lower leg tingling is associated with a stroke?

If your lower leg tingling is sudden in onset and associated with numbness, weakness/paralysis, arm numbness, vision problems, trouble with balancing or trouble speaking, these may be symptoms of a stroke [1] and you should immediately seek medical attention.

What other symptoms associated with a tingling lower leg can indicate a serious condition?

If your tingling lower leg is also associated with sudden, severe back pain, trouble with balancing, sudden changes in bladder or bowel control, and numbness or weakness in one or both legs, buttocks, inner thighs or back of your legs, this could be symptoms suggesting your spinal nerves are being compressed and you should seek medical attention immediately.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Tingling Lower Leg

  • Q.Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Q.Are you sleepy during the day?
  • Q.Have you been experiencing an unpleasant urge to move your legs?
  • Q.Are your symptoms worse during the late afternoon or night?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our tingling lower leg symptom checker to find out more.

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Tingling Lower Leg Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced tingling lower leg have also experienced:

    • 11% Tingling Foot
    • 9% Hand Tingling
    • 8% Tingling Upper Leg
  • People who have experienced tingling lower leg had symptoms persist for:

    • 42% Less Than a Day
    • 21% Over a Month
    • 21% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced tingling lower leg were most often matched with:

    • 50% Vertebral Osteomyelitis
    • 25% Herniated (Slipped) Disk in the Lower Back
    • 25% Restless Legs Syndrome (Rls)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Stroke: Signs and Symptoms. UCSF Health. UCSF Health Link
  2. Herniated Disk. Mayo Clinic. Published March 6, 2018. Mayo Clinic Link
  3. Sciatica. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Updated December 2013. OrthoInfo Link
  4. Spinal Stenosis. Mayo Clinic. Published March 8, 2018. Mayo Clinic Link
  5. Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated July 6, 2018. NINDS Link
  6. Autoimmune Diseases. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated October 23, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  7. Guillain-Barre Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated July 6, 2018. NINDS Link
  8. B Vitamins. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated August 1, 2018. MedlinePlus Link