Numbness, also called paresthesias, is a loss of feeling in the body that can occur in any area but most often occurs in the fingers, hands, arms, feet and legs, according to MedlinePlus. Because numbness in the legs is a loss of feeling, it often leads to more injuries. Numbness in the legs is often a symptom of specific diseases that affect the peripheral nerves and spinal cord or impede blood flow to the area.
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Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease is a circulatory system condition characterized by reduced blood flow to the limbs due to a narrowing in the peripheral arteries. The peripheral arteries are the blood vessels that supply blood to the limbs. When they become narrowed, usually due to a buildup of plaque, the limbs--especially the legs--do not receive enough blood. This lack of blood flow decreases the amount of oxygen the legs receive and results in numbness in the legs, pain when walking, change in skin color of the legs, weak or no pulse in the legs and feet and a reduction in hair growth, according to MayoClinic.com. Minor cases of peripheral artery disease can be treated with a combination of medications, including those that reduce cholesterol and increase blood pressure. Severe cases of peripheral artery disease may require surgery. If left untreated, peripheral artery disease can lead to the death of leg tissue, which requires amputation, or stroke.
Spinal stenosis is a disease in which the spinal cord narrows, causing an increase in pressure. Spinal stenosis occurs as a result of arthritis, a herniated disk, spinal cord injury, birth defects, spine tumors and certain bone diseases, according to MedlinePlus. Symptoms of spinal stenosis include numbness in the legs, back or arms and weakness of the legs or arms. Symptoms usually occur on one side of the body and become more severe during standing or movement. Spinal stenosis is treated with a combination of medications, physical therapy and lifestyle changes. If spinal stenosis is a result of severe inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs may be injected into the spine to relieve symptoms.
Transverse myelitis is a rare disease characterized by extreme inflammation in the spinal cord that puts pressure on the nerves and impedes nerve signals. Transverse myelitis can be caused by other diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Sjogren’s syndrome. The disease can also be a result of viral or bacterial infections. Symptoms of transverse myelitis include numbness and tingling in the legs or arms, weakness in the legs or arms, back pain, muscle spasms and loss of bladder control, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Transverse myelitis is most commonly treated with corticosteroids, which are drugs used to reduce inflammation. Physical therapy and occupational therapy may also be used to improve normal body function.