Everyone has experienced numbness and tingling in their feet at some point in their lives. However, when your feet feel numb and tingly more than just on rare occasions, you should get a medical examination from a podiatrist. There are many common medical conditions that cause the sensations of numbness and tingling in the feet. Here are 3 life-threatening health conditions that are not-so-common.
What it is. Alkalosis is when the body is too alkaline. It happens when the lungs, liver, and kidneys do not maintain a good balance of chemicals in the body, particularly the acids and bases. Extreme cases of alkalosis can cause death.
What causes it. In addition to diseases of the lungs, liver and kidneys, alkalosis can be brought on by hyperventilation, high altitudes, prolonged vomiting, and overuse of diuretics.
Why it affects feet. The imbalance of chemicals in the blood can cause numbness and tingling in the feet, as well as in the hands and face.
Other symptoms. Nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms and twitching, and feeling light-headed and confused. Symptoms can worsen and progress to seizures, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, and coma.
Treatment. The underlying cause of alkalosis needs to be determined so the appropriate treatment can be given. Sometimes, oxygen and medication are given to correct the chemical balance.
What it is. There are two types of beriberi: wet and dry. Beriberi is a disease that can either affect the function of the heart (wet beriberi) or damage nerves and cause muscle paralysis (dry beriberi). Regardless of type, untreated beriberi can lead to death.
What causes it. Beriberi is caused by a Vitamin B-1 deficiency. Of course, this can be due to a poor diet but there are other reasons for Vitamin B-1 deficiency, including excessive alcohol consumption, pregnancy, liver disease, prolonged diarrhea, and kidney dialysis.
Why it affects feet. The nerves and muscles throughout the body are affected by dry beriberi, which is mostly felt with tingling and numbness in the extremities, particularly in the beginning stages of the disease. Patients with wet beriberi may experience more swelling in their feet instead of tingling and numbness.
Other symptoms. In addition to loss of muscles function and damage to the nerves, including paralysis, patients with dry beriberi can have difficulty speaking, confusion, eye movement that is involuntary, and vomiting. Those with wet beriberi can have rapid heart rate and shortness of breath.
Treatment. Treatment for beriberi, regardless of type, is with Vitamin B-1 supplements and/or a special diet with foods that are rich in Vitamin B-1, such as eggs, meats, and whole grains. Of course, if there are underlying causes of the deficiency, those will need to be treated as well.
What it is. Chiari malformation is a herniation of part of the brain into the spinal canal opening that is located at the base of the brain. The malformation can slow the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid, which can cause a multitude of symptoms throughout the body. However, a sudden complete blockage of the spinal fluid can result in death.
What causes it. Structural congenital defects can cause the malformation, which can occur during fetal development. However, Chiari can also be acquired, such as from a trauma or infection.
Why it affects feet. When the spinal fluid isn't flowing properly, it can affect the nerves in the extremities, including numbness, tingling, and/or the sensation of hot or cold.
Other symptoms. There are so many other symptoms of Chiari, but the most common is painful pressure on the back of the head that may radiate into the neck area. Other symptoms can include loss of motor control, difficulty swallowing, confusion, muscle weakness, dizziness, coordination problems, and facial numbness.
Treatment. Decompression brain surgery is the only treatment for Chiari malformation. However, it's generally not done unless the patient experiences severe symptoms. It's important to understand that Chiari, left untreated, can eventually lead to paralysis. Numbness and tingling in the feet is one of the first signs of nerve damage for people who have Chiari malformation.