Leg tingling a common symptom that occurs as a result of nerve compromise. Although pain may accompany tingling, it does not always have to. Tingling has a number of causes, each of which will be diagnosed in different ways, so you should see your doctor if your tingling is of concern to you. The preferred treatment and outlook for somebody whose legs are tingling are highly dependent on the cause of the tingling.
Tingling, which is known medically as "parasthesia," is also often described as a feeling of "pins and needles," "limbs falling asleep" and "prickling" and is usually experienced in the extremities. It occurs when sensory nerves that supply sensation to your extremities become compromised and begin to fire dysfunctionally, sending incorrect sensory messages to your brain.
Tingling and pain do not always occur together. There are many reasons why this might be the case, but the most simple reason has to do with the observation that there are many different kinds of nerves that send different kinds of signals to your brain, and they often run in parallel with one another. Compromising certain kinds of nerves can cause pain, and compromising other kinds of nerves can cause tingling. It all depends on the kind of nerve compromise occurring in your particular situation.
The differential diagnosis of leg tingling is broad and includes completely harmless processes such as sitting in an awkward position for too long, which can cause temporary nerve compression, and serious medical conditions such as a tumor compressing a nerve or Guillan-Barre syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease that results from a viral infection. Other less severe, but still concerning conditions that can cause leg tingling include a herniated disc, vitamin B12 deficiency and diabetes.
You will need to see your doctor to accurately diagnose the cause of your leg tingling. Your doctor will ask you historical questions about the tingling, such as when it began, what makes it better and what makes it worse. Answers to these questions coupled with physical examination findings and laboratory tests will help lead your doctor to the correct diagnosis. For example, leg tingling as a result of a herniated disc may elicit a history of tingling that started after pain with heavy lifting, and the herniated disc may be visible on magnetic resonance imaging. In contrast, tingling as a result of diabetes would primarily be diagnosed based on a history of poorly controlled diabetes.
As with the process of diagnosing leg tingling, the prognosis depends on the cause. If your leg is tingling because you've been sitting in the wrong position for too long, all you may need to do is change positions more frequently. However, if your tingling is the result of a more serious condition, your prognosis will depend on how well you and your doctor are able to address that condition. For example, a herniated disc may eventually require surgery to cause tingling to go away, and diabetes will require strict control of blood glucose as well as significant lifestyle and dietary changes to improve, and in both these conditions, if the appropriate treatment is not adhered to, the tingling will not go away.
- MedlinePlus: Numbness and Tingling
- "Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 9e"; AH Roper and MA Samuels; 2009