Read below about toe numbness, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your toe numbness from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Toe Numbness Symptoms

Loss of sensation in a body part is often referred to as numbness. Many people have experienced this sensation upon falling asleep for too long on a crooked arm or typing for too long on a keyboard. However, symptoms of toe numbness are not as common an occurrence and can be worrisome. Furthermore, the toe numbness may be associated with other symptoms that may feel strange.

For example, symptoms you may also experience that accompany your toe numbness symptoms include:

  • Burning or tingling
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Lack of coordination or falling
  • Coldness or sensitivity to touch
  • Weak pulse in the legs or feet
  • Sores on the toes and feet that take long to heal

These toe numbness symptoms are often temporary, but unlike being able to find quick relief for symptoms such as hand numbness, toe numbness may be more difficult to resolve. As a result, it is important to follow up with your doctor and get appropriate care as soon as you notice toe numbness symptoms.

Toe Numbness Causes Overview

Toe numbness is the result of injury, compression or irritation of a nerve or a branch of one of the nerves in your foot and sometimes as high up as your leg. The foot is composed of many different nerves and small blood vessels that begin higher up in the leg and branch off in various directions to give blood flow and sensation throughout the foot. Because of this, causes that result in toe numbness are varied, but can be divided into the following categories.

Circulatory causes:

  • Conditions that cause narrowing of the blood vessels can reduce blood flow to the limbs and cause losses in sensation. The toes are especially susceptible because they are farthest from large vessels and may lose circulation first. Narrowing of the blood vessels is most often caused by plaque build-up in the vessels. This process is known as atherosclerosis.

Systemic disease causes:

  • Metabolic: Dysfunction in the processes that your body uses day-to-day, for example diabetes, can also affect both the way your nerves function and the diameter of your blood vessels. This causes numbness in the peripheral parts of the body, especially the toes and hands (this condition is known as peripheral neuropathy).
  • Hereditary: Some uncommon inherited disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease can affect multiple nerves in the body and result in numbness in multiple parts of the body.

Environmental causes:

  • Toxins: Toxins that cause injury to the nerves include heavy metals such as lead and substances such as alcohol. Too much exposure to either can cause nerve damage that leads to numbness.
  • Vitamin Imbalance: There are certain vitamins that are essential to healthy nerve function such as vitamins E and B12. Deficiencies in these vitamins over time can lead to nerve damage and injury. Conversely, exposure to too much Vitamin B6 can cause numbness in the toe.
  • Trauma: Any situation where the foot or leg is crushed or damaged will result in toe numbness and nerve pain. However, trauma does not always need to be severe. Circumstances as simple as shoes that are too tight can also cause compressive trauma to the nerves of the feet and toes.

Inflammatory Causes

  • Autoimmune: Many inflammatory diseases that result in the body attacking itself can also affect the nerves and cause injury that results in numbness. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis and lupus are examples of such autoimmune diseases.
  • Infections: Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease and multiple viral infections such as shingles can cause inflammation and nerve injury that results in toe numbness symptoms.

5 Potential Toe Numbness Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Mild Frostbite of the Lower Leg

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    It takes 1-3 months to assess the damage, at which time, surgery might be needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, swollen foot, foot numbness, limping, foot redness
    Symptoms that always occur with mild frostbite of the lower leg:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  2. 2.Severe Frostbite of the Lower Limbs

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    It takes 1-3 months to assess the damage, at which time, surgery might be needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, swollen foot, foot numbness, foot redness, limping
    Symptoms that always occur with severe frostbite of the lower limbs:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

    Toe Numbness Checker

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  3. 3.Frostnip of the Lower Limbs

    Frostnip is damage of the outermost layers of the skin caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports.

    As long as you are able to get to a place to re-warm, the damage should be reversible.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, swollen foot, foot numbness, limping, foot redness
    Symptoms that always occur with frostnip of the lower limbs:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  4. 4.Severe Ankle Injury Needing Imaging

    An ankle fracture is a break in 1 or more ankle bones. Having neurovascular compromise means that the fracture was so severe that blood flow to the toes and nerves of the foot was interrupted.

    Depending on the severity of the fracture, recovery may take up to a year.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    tingling foot, toe numbness, constant ankle pain, cold toe, pain in one ankle
    Symptoms that always occur with severe ankle injury needing imaging:
    bruised ankle, toe numbness, pain in one ankle, pain when pressing on the ankle bone, swollen ankle, ankle pain from an injury, constant ankle pain
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  5. 5.Low Back Strain

    A strain, commonly called a "pulled muscle," is when a muscle becomes overstretched and tears. A low back strain happens when one of the muscles in the lower back is stressed due to an unusual movement (such as lifting a heavy object, or lifting while twisting).

    This is usually a self-limiting problem, and should subside on its own within weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, back pain that gets worse when sitting, back pain that gets worse when straightening it, lower left back pain, lower right back pain
    Symptoms that always occur with low back strain:
    lower back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with low back strain:
    involuntary defecation, first time leaking urine, back numbness, toe numbness, foot numbness
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Toe Numbness Treatments and Relief

If you experience frequent, persistent episodes of toe numbness, visit your doctor to find the exact cause of your condition in order to get appropriate treatment.

Depending on the cause, your doctor may first suggest other lifestyle modifications such as:

  • Balanced diet rich in essential vitamins to keep the nerves healthy: Fruits, vegetables, grains and lean proteins can provide your body with the nutrition necessary to maintain your nerves.

  • Regular exercise: Maintaining an optimal weight with exercise and a balanced diet can not only prevent, but also control metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

  • Medications to relax blood vessels: There are many different kinds of medication that can combat constriction in your blood vessels by dilating (relaxing) them and promoting circulation.

  • Anticonvulsants: Some anticonvulsant medications can also be used to combat nerve pain such as gabapentin (Neurontin).

  • Physical therapy: If your toe numbness is due to trauma that causes compression of the nerves and blood vessels leading to your toes, your doctor may suggest therapy to help take the pressure of these body parts, which also may improve your range of motion and posture.

  • Surgery: If other treatments are ineffective and your toe numbness symptoms continue to progress or worsen, your doctor may recommend looking into surgical options to combat your symptoms.

If you experience any symptoms of speech difficulty, facial drooping, or weakness to the point you cannot raise your foot or leg call 911 immediately. These could be signs of a stroke.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Toe Numbness

  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric issue, such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder?
  • Q.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.)
  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Do you currently smoke?

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

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Toe Numbness Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced toe numbness have also experienced:

    • 3% Big Toe Pain
    • 3% Lower Back Pain
    • 3% Tingling Foot
  • People who have experienced toe numbness had symptoms persist for:

    • 39% Less Than a Day
    • 26% Over a Month
    • 19% Less Than a Week
  • 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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