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Numbness or tingling in a toe, foot, or ankle

Numbness is an inability to feel anything when you touch your skin. You may feel like the part you touch does not belong to you. Tingling is a pins-and-needles sensation, like when your foot "falls asleep." It is normal to have temporary changes in feeling after an injury or when swelling is present. Home treatment may help relieve swelling that can cause numbness or tingling.

Numbness or tingling may mean that nerves have been injured or pinched, swelling is putting pressure on nerves, or blood vessels have been injured. This can occur gradually from an overuse injury or from a sudden (acute) injury, such as a fracture, dislocation, or severe sprain.

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A pinched nerve in the ankle can lead to tarsal tunnel syndrome. It is relatively common for bicyclists riding long distances to develop numbness for a few minutes to an hour because of tight toe-clip straps. A bicyclist may be able to prevent this problem by loosening the straps or switching to a step-in shoe-pedal.

Numbness and tingling are more serious when:

  • You have a complete loss of feeling.
  • You have symptoms of decreased blood flow, such as pale, white, blue, or cold skin.
  • You have muscle weakness not caused by pain.
  • Symptoms don't go away.
  • Symptoms go away but keep coming back.
Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Gavin W.G. Chalmers, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery
Last Updated October 27, 2008

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 27, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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