When it comes to health, nobody likes a mystery.
Which is why a mysterious buzzing or vibrating in your foot that seems to come and go at random is so frustrating.
This mysterious–and irritating–ailment is the inspiration for numerous questions on Yahoo Answers, online podiatry threads, and doctor’s visits every year. And for many people, the answer for the odd buzzing is “Pallesthesia.”
The buzzing sensation often comes and goes at regular intervals (a few seconds of buzzing followed by a few seconds of peace). It can feel like a short burst of electricity or a cell phone on vibrate under your skin, which is why the name “pallesthesia” literally translates to–”feelings of vibration.”
Often, pallesthesia is most noticeable at night when you’re lying still, trying to fall asleep. It’s also possible to experience it in other extremities like your hands and fingers.
What exactly causes pallesthesia, and should you be worried about other underlying problems?Is there a cure?
What Causes Pallesthesia?
To put it briefly, it’s unclear exactly what causes pallesthesia. Or more accurately, there are a number of possible reasons you might be experiencing the vibrating in your foot. The following are some of the most likely possibilities:
B12 deficiency or anemia:
Many people who have suffered from pallesthesia report improvement after upping their dosage of B12 and iron, which makes sense, since these vitamins are key to nerve health, and odd sensations like buzzing could be a sign of deficiency. Check your levels with a simple blood test.
Blocked artery or vein:
Another possibility is a partial blockage in an artery or vein from a clot or some kind of injury. The buzzing sensation may be from the blood forcing its way through the blocked vein or artery.
Stress response and adrenaline:
Does the buzzing feeling in your foot happen when you’re stressed? It may be part of your body’s stress response that sends hormones and blood flow to different parts of the body in anticipation of fight or flight. If you notice that your pallesthesia is happening in response to stress, calming down through breathing exercises or mindfulness can help relieve symptoms.
Compressed nerve or damaged nerve:
Damage to the nerves in the extremities, also known as peripheral neuropathy, can cause pallesthesia in some cases. If you notice any numbness accompanying the vibration, make sure you get to a doctor quickly, since this can indicate damage to the a nerve. Doctors don’t know what causes peripheral neuropathy in many cases. However, about one third are a result of diabetes, which can change blood glucose levels and impact nerve cells’ metabolism.
Some medications can cause pallesthesia. If you noticed the buzzing sensation in conjunction with a new medication or increased dosage, talk to your doctor about switching medications, and ask what this means in context of your treatment.
Restless Leg Syndrome:
Some people who suffer from restless leg syndrome, a neurological condition that causes a desire to move one’s legs constantly, report pallesthesia as an accompanying side effect. A good rule of thumb is, if you have other symptoms like pain, fatigue, problems with motor skills, or numbness in addition to the buzzing, it’s worth a trip to the doctor to rule out a larger problem like diabetes, fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), or a warning of nerve damage.
How Can I Make the Vibrating Go Away?
Because the causes of pallesthesia are so diverse, treatment will depend greatly on the cause of the buzzing.
If you suspect a vitamin deficiency or confirm this with a blood test, increase your B12 or iron, being sure to take care with antacids or calcium that can block absorption of these vitamins.
If you notice a correlation with stress and the buzzing, learn some breathing exercises as a way to calm down when the buzzing starts.
If the underlying cause is more serious, like peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, MS, fibromyalgia, or arthritis, your doctor will be able to coordinate a targeted treatment approach for the underlying condition that should help with the pallesthesia as well.
Can I Prevent Pallesthesia?
As with treatments, preventing pallesthesia rests on its unique cause. In general, work to keep your body healthy through eating lots of whole grains and fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, get regular exercise, avoid alcohol and drugs, and avoid repetitive movements that put strain your feet and extremities. Don’t forget a multivitamin, especially one that contains B12 and iron.
The good news is that while pallesthesia is often a mysterious combination of factors, it’s not usually a threat to your health or an indication of something more sinister.
Try the ideas above, and make sure you’re exercising regularly and getting enough vitamins. And don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor to put your mind at ease. Chances are that the buzzing amounts to an annoyance–not a harbinger of bad news. But it’s always better to err on the side of your health.