Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is Leg Numbness?
This is usually an abnormal condition in which a person will feel a loss of sensation in their legs. It is usually a symptom of a disease. You can have it in one or both legs. If it is in one leg it is referred to as unilateral and if it is in both legs it is referred to as bilateral. There are some cases in which this leg numbness can go all the way to your toes. It can affect anyone of any age, race, gender, or sex. It can range from just being a nuisance that is mild that will come and go to pain that is debilitating that can make it difficult for a person to engage in everyday simple activities, sleep, or even walk.
Leg Numbness Symptoms
With leg numbness a person may also experience other symptoms or combination of symptoms, depending on what is causing the numbness. Some of the other symptoms a person might experience include:
- Having a burning feeling.
- Having to urinate frequently.
- While walking, experiencing an increase in the numbness, pain, or tingling.
- Pain in your lower back.
- Spasms in your muscles.
- Having a prickling or pins and needles sensation.
- Being sensitive to touch.
Leg Numbness Causes
Having leg numbness can be a symptom of a variety of diseases or medical conditions that have caused injury to the nerves or restricted the blood flow to the nerves. It is a symptom that could be temporary and happens after having prolonged pressure on the nerve or nerves such as riding a bicycle for a long distance or sitting cross legged for a long time. It can also happen with orthopedic conditions that range from moderate to serious and can lead to peripheral nerve or spinal damage. One of these conditions is multiple sclerosis. Leg numbness can also be caused by having a compressed nerve in your lower spine.
Leg numbness due to circulatory problems
These conditions can be caused by a lack of blood flow to the leg because of:
- Arteriovenous malformation which is a tangled knot of veins and arteries.
- Buerger’s disease which is an acute clotting and inflammation of your veins and arteries.
- Deep vein thrombosis which is a blood clot in your leg that could break loose and cause a pulmonary embolism in your lung. It could even cause a stroke or heart attack.
- Extremely cold temperatures or frostbite.
- Peripheral artery disease which is a narrowing of your arteries due to the buildup of cholesterol and fat on your artery walls, limiting blood flow to your legs.
Leg numbness due to orthopedic problems
This can happen if there are conditions that damage or injure the nerves because of:
- Injury to your back
- Fractures of your bones or having a cast put on that is too tight.
- Degenerative disk disease.
- Having a herniated disk.
- Having nerve pressure or entrapment of the nerve from sitting for a long period of time.
- Osteoporosis which is a disease where there is destruction of bone tissue and loss of bone mass.
Leg numbness due to neurological problems
This can happen if there is damage or compression of the nerves because of:
- Injury to your neck or back
- Diabetic neuropathy which is damage to your nerves because of high blood sugar levels that are associated with diabetes
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Hypothyroidism which is having an under-active thyroid gland
- Multiple sclerosis which is a disease that affects your spinal cord and brain
- Peripheral neuropathy which is a disorder of your peripheral nerves
- Having a spinal cord tumor or injury
Because there can be many reasons to have leg numbness in order to know exactly what is causing leg numbness you need to be evaluated by your physician.
Before any type of treatment can be done your physician needs to know what the cause is. You should make sure that you visit your physician if the leg numbness occurs after any injury to your back or head. If the leg numbness is not temporary you should also see your physician. Once your physician knows what the cause of your leg numbness is then they can prescribe the proper treatment.