There are many reasons why someone may experience tingling in their feet and hands, most of which are temporary.
If a person sits or sleeps in an unusual position, it may put pressure on a nerve and cause a tingling sensation in the feet or hands. People often refer to this as "pins and needles."
Some causes of tingling in feet or hands are more serious and may require proper diagnosis and treatment.
Possible causes of tingling
Peripheral neuropathy has a number of causes.
A lot of causes of tingling sensations are linked to a condition called peripheral neuropathy. This is a type of nerve damage that leads to tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.
Various conditions lead to peripheral neuropathy. It affects an estimated 20 million people in the United States.
The causes of peripheral neuropathy and other reasons that feet or hands may tingle are explored here.
1. Pinched nerve
A person may experience tingling in their feet or hands because of a pinched nerve in the back. This may have happened as a result of injury or swelling.
Other symptoms of a pinched nerve include pain and limited movement. Treatment for a pinched nerve can involve:
- physical therapy
Surgery is another option if none of these treatments are effective.
Swallowing something toxic or a toxin being absorbed through the skin may be a cause of tingling in the feet.
Toxins that may cause this include:
Treatment for toxin exposure needs to be carried out urgently and will depend on the substance.
Alcohol is a toxin and can damage nerve tissue. Drinking too much alcohol may lead to a type of peripheral neuropathy known as alcoholic neuropathy.
This condition can cause pain and tingling in the limbs, hands, and feet. These symptoms happen because the peripheral nerves have been damaged by alcohol.
From 25 to 66 percent of people who are classified as long-term alcoholics experience alcoholic neuropathy, according to a study. Treatments focus on helping the individual reduce or stop their excessive drinking.
People who experience anxiety may hyperventilate, which can cause tingling in the feet.
Hyperventilating is a common symptom of anxiety and is characterized by breathing very rapidly. This causes an imbalance in carbon dioxide and oxygen levels, which may result in the feet tingling.
Tingling in the feet and anxiety may be linked psychologically. This is why, when a person feels anxious, they may be more aware of their bodily sensations.
Anxiety treatments include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- talking therapy
- anti-anxiety medication
- well-being activities, such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness
Tingling in the feet is common for people who are pregnant.
Tingling in the feet is often experienced when someone is pregnant. The uterus may put pressure on the nerves in a person's legs as their baby grows. This may cause tingling, often described as "pins and needles."
Staying hydrated, changing positions, and resting with the feet up can help relieve the sensation.
Someone should see a doctor if:
- tingling in the feet fails to go away
- the limbs feel weak
- feet or limbs swell up
A doctor can ensure there is nothing else wrong if someone is pregnant and they experience tingling sensations.
6. Repetitive strain injury
Repetitive strain injury or RSI may cause tingling in the hands. RSI happens when a person carries out repetitive activities for too long without rest.
RSI is also known as work-related upper limb disorder. It can be the result of poor posture.
RSI commonly affects:
- wrists and hands
- forearms and elbows
- neck and shoulders
Other symptoms of RSI may include:
Treatments for RSI include:
- anti-inflammatory drugs
- cold packs
- elastic supports
7. Vitamin deficiency
Deficiency of vitamins E, B-1, B-6, B-12 or niacin may cause tingling in the hands or feet. These vitamins are vital for nerve function.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency may lead to peripheral neuropathy. Other symptoms include:
Vitamin deficiencies can be treated by eating a more healthful diet or by dietary supplements.
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8. Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis or MS is a long-term condition that affects the brain and spinal cord.
Numbness or tingling in the feet is an early symptom of MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. People with the condition may experience tingling before diagnosis.
Other symptoms of MS include:
- vision problems
- trouble balancing
- bladder issues
- sexual dysfunction
- cognitive issues
If someone suspects they may have MS, they should speak to their doctor who can help to reach a diagnosis.
Treatments for MS include:
- short courses of steroid medication
- symptom-specific treatments
- disease-modifying therapies
Certain medications may cause tingling in the hands or feet as one of their side effects.
Medications that may cause this symptom include those that treat:
Certain infections cause nerves to become inflamed. This inflammation may lead to tingling in the hands or feet.
Infections that may cause this include:
Anyone who suspects they may have an infection should speak to a doctor so that they can do the appropriate tests. These often involve a blood test.
A doctor can advise on the best course of treatment once they have diagnosed an infection.
11. Kidney failure
Tingling in the feet or hands may be a sign of kidney failure. Diabetes and high blood pressure both increase the risk of kidney failure.
Other symptoms of kidney failure include:
- muscle twitches
- muscle weakness
Anyone who suspects they may have a problem with their kidneys should speak to their doctor for tests to reach a diagnosis.
Kidney failure can be treated through dialysis or a kidney transplant.
12. Autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune disease may cause tingling in the feet or hands. Autoimmune disease occurs when the body attacks itself.
Autoimmune diseases that may cause tingling include:
To diagnose an autoimmune disease, a doctor may:
- ask about medical and family history
- carry out a physical examination
- run blood tests
Treatments for autoimmune diseases include medication and dietary changes.
Insulin may be used to treat diabetes.
Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which may lead to nerve damage. People with diabetes may experience persistent tingling in the feet as a result. This condition is called diabetic neuropathy.
Other diabetes symptoms include:
- feeling very thirsty
- urinating frequently
- increased hunger
- blurred vision
- slow healing cuts
- unexplained weight loss
Treatments for diabetes include:
- medication, including insulin, to control blood sugar
- dietary changes
14. Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease or PAD affects the circulatory system, causing blood vessels to become narrower. This may lead to poor circulation, which can cause tingling in the feet or hands.
Tingling in the feet or hands may be a sign of a stroke.
Symptoms come on suddenly and may include:
- numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, particularly on one side
- trouble speaking
- trouble understanding
- blurred vision
- trouble walking
- loss of balance
- loss of coordination
People should call emergency services immediately if they experience one or more of these symptoms.
Treatments for stroke include thrombolytic drugs, which help to treat any blood clots.
Takeaway and visiting a doctor
People who experience tingling in their feet or hands regularly should speak to their doctor. They should also tell their doctor about any related symptoms. The doctor can help reach a diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment.
People should call emergency services without delay if they suspect they or someone else may be having a stroke.