Almost everyone has them and many people get pedicures to make them look pretty. That’s right, we are talking about toes. Just like fingers and the thumb are a hands best friend, the toes are a foot’s other half. Almost all humans have five toes on each foot. Each toe has a different name: the hallux is the big toe or first toe, the second toe is known as index toe, the third toe is called the middle toe, the fourth toe is referred to as ring toe and the fifth or outermost toe is the fifth little piggy. Aside from the big toe, the other toes have three different types of bones: proximal, middle and distal. Blood and nerve supply are very important for the use and function of the foot and toes. These little appendages are responsible for walking and assisting with weight-bearing and balance. There are times when the constriction of footwear or an injury can cause a toe or toes to become numb.
Some of the symptoms that may accompany toe numbness include:
- Cold feet/toes
- Sores on toes/feet
- Weak pulse
- Unable to walk
- Limited coordination
- Sensitivity to touch
- Sensation of pins and needles
These symptoms are common among those who suffer from a numb toe. However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms seek help immediately: tremors, droopy face, loss of speak or thought, sudden loss of feeling or numbness on one side of the body and blurred vision.
It is important to understand whether your symptoms are temporary, long-lasting, sudden or sporadic. The best way to capture these symptoms is to write them down so you can present your findings with a doctor.
There are many different reasons as to why a numb toe occurs. Most, but not all, of the causes for a numb toe include:
- Autoimmune diseases: Multiple sclerosis (MS) and lupus are the biggest examples of this form of disease that can cause nerve damage and numb toes.
- Raynaud’s disease
- Restriction of blood circulation
- Bad pair of shoes
- Infections: Viral and bacterial infections can cause numbness in the toes. Viral and bacterial infections include: shingles, leprosy, Lyme disease and HIV.
- Compressed nerves
- Excess use of alcohol
- Trauma: Spinal cord and foot injuries can increase the burning and tingling sensation of a numb toe.
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
Doctors may not immediately know the cause of a numb toe with the right testing. Some of the tests that can help make a proper diagnosis include:
- Skin biopsy
- Blood test
- Computed tomography scan (CT scan)
- Electromyogram (EMG)
- Nerve biopsy
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Once the proper diagnosis has been made, the right treatment is next. Depending on the cause of a numb toe some treatment plans can include:
- Increasing vitamin intake and controlling blood sugar levels for those who suffer from diabetes
- Stop smoking to increase blood supply to the toes
- Exercising regularly to keep the nerve and blood supply flowing properly
- Corrective surgery for issues such as a bunion
- For a quick relief one can use ice packs to help relieve the pain and numbness
- Pain relievers and other medications to help with a numb toe are oxycodone, anti-depressants and pregabalin.
There may not always be a 100% way to prevent toe numbness from occurring but there are definitely ways to help prevent the tingling and burning sensation that accompanies a numb toe. Here are some prevention tips:
- Buying the right size shoe: Sometimes people by the wrong shoe size just because they are “in love” with a specific shoe. A wrong shoe size and shape can cause your feet and toes to lose blood supply.
- Do not stand for extended periods of time: Even if your job requires you to stand for x-amount of hours, take a 5-minute sit down break to relax your legs and feet.
- Get proper pedicures from licensed professionals only
- Wear warm socks and shoes in the winter
- Walk properly: Listen to your parents when they tell you to walk or sit straight. Walking with an easy stride and with your head held high can make a difference on the weight you are bearing on your feet and toes.