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I have numbness in the balls of both feet

by Michael
(North Augusta, SC)

The problem began 14 years ago with only occasional discomfort in the balls of my feet that would come and go. Over time it became more persistent and eventually would not go away at all and eventually spread toward the toes making it very uncomfortable to stand for any length of time. My toes feel like they are being squeezed and it feels like the tendons in my toes are pulling them back/up. I feel like I will eventually not be able to stand on my feet at all. This is really incapacitating as well as unbearable. I have seen four different specialists as well as my own PCP and have had every test run imaginable as well as been put on every possible medication for neurological issues to include anti-depressants. Nothing helps. I have not had an MRI and the current specialist wants to do a CAT scan to check for cancer.


ANSWER
Hi Michael,
Based on what you have stated in your description, my first thought is that this coming from your lower back. The fact that it is occurring in both feet and has been worsening over the years (I assume at the same rate in both feet) leads me to believe that the common denominator is your back.
A lesser possibility would be bilateral tarsal tunnel, which the incidence of having the same condition in both feet is very low plus the fact that even if you had tarsal tunnel in both feet they probably would not have progressed at the same rate.
So this brings us back to the lower back. I will tell you that I have patient's with similar situations and in some cases a cause is never found.
I would think an MRI would be the appropriate course of treatment and quite frankly am surprised that you have never had one up to this point.
A tumor is always a possibility but this problem has been going on for 14 years so that tells me even if it is a tumor (and more than likely not) at least it is slow growing which certainly works in your favor.
As a final thought I will assume you have been worked up for Morton's neuroma which occurs in the ball of the foot. Your symptoms do not sound totally suggestive of a Morton's neuroma and again they would develop at different rates so one foot would be worst than the other. I just mention it to make sure one of your doctor's has ruled that out as well.

Marc Mitnick DPM
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