Why Do I Have Burning Sensation in Leg?

A sudden burning feeling in the leg can be due to trauma caused by an injury, in which case, medical attention is required. Sometimes the sensation is not strong and medical attention is sought only when it interferes with daily activities. Paresthesia is the medical term given to skin sensations like burning and tingling. Sensations of burning in one or both legs can be attributed to a host of reasons like nerves being injured or damaged. The article below breaks down this vast subject into manageable chunks of information.

Why Do I Have Burning Sensation in Leg?

Possible causes are:

1. Diabetes

People with uncontrolled diabetes develop a condition called diabetic neuropathy. There is a gradual damage of nerves in the feet and legs. This results in a gradual loss sensation in these areas in addition to tingling.

2. Peripheral Artery Disease

This condition occurs when there is a decrease of blood flow to legs due to narrowing of blood vessels. The lack of blood to muscles in these areas causes pain upon activity or exercising. The oxygen supply is insufficient for the muscles to work without causing pain. Uncontrolled diabetics are predisposed to developing this condition.

3. Blood Clot

A blood clot can cause blood flow obstruction to the extremities like the legs. A lack of oxygen supply to the leg muscles will result in pain and possibly a burning sensation in leg. The formation of a blood clot in a deep vein can result in blood being trapped behind the blockage which will cause pain, swelling and redness to the affected area.

4. Burns

Trauma like heat burn or chemical burn on the legs can cause the pain. Depending on the severity, you may have to seek medical attention.

5. Sciatica

A damaged spinal disc or arthritis in the back can cause pain and burning from the inflamed sciatic nerve which will radiate down towards the leg. The pain may be felt in the foot, thigh or shin depending upon which nerve root is involved.

6. Injuries

Injury like a fall which results in damage to the bone, muscles or joints can also cause a burning sensation in leg. Other injuries include fractures, shin splints, etc.

7. Skin Infections

Infections like Streptococcus or Staphylococcus cause pain and burning sensation in the leg. The inflammation caused by the infection leads to fluid build-up, causing the skin to stretch and pain.

8. Shingles

Shingles is a condition that develops when the dormant chickenpox virus is reactivated. The nerves in the spinal cord are inflamed, causing pain that can radiate towards the leg.

When to Call Your Doctor

Usually when your ability to stand, walk and bear weight on your legs is impaired, you should seek medical attention. However, bear in mind that being able to move your limbs doesn’t mean that you don’t require a doctor.

Medical treatment will be based on the underlying cause of the burning sensation in leg. The following are just a quick guideline for when to seek medical attention:

  • A suspected fracture
  • A sudden pain, especially when accompanied with swelling and heat to the affected area (which could be deep vein thrombosis).
  • A pale and cold-to-touch limb (which can possibly mean the presence a blood clot).
  • Leg pain accompanied with muscle weakness and changes in bowel/bladder function (which can mean a serious condition called cauda equina)
  • Children with leg pain, especially if there is a fever as well

How to Relieve Burning Sensation in Leg

If the burning sensation in your leg is not due to a serious condition or injury, there are some steps you can take at home to make your leg more comfortable and to alleviate the pain.

  • For simple strains and sprains, you can control the pain with over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen. Ensure that the medication you’ve chosen to take is safe for you. Resting the affected limb with compression, ice and elevation should alleviate the pain.
  • Sciatic pain can be relieved by a short bed rest. Heat alternated with ice applied to the affected area may help speed up the healing process. Chiropractic or physical therapy can also play an important role in healing.

Is It Possible to Prevent Burning Sensation in Leg?

Injuries due to accidents and certain medical conditions are unavoidable. However, there are some situations where you can take precautions.

  • To prevent deep vein thrombosis, minimize your time of inactivity by moving around at regular intervals especially when travelling by air, car or train.
  • Decrease your chances of falling by wearing sensible footwear and keeping floors free of obstacles like rugs, electrical cords, etc.
  • Keeping your ideal weight will reduce your chances of developing associated diseases like diabetes.
  • Regular exercise and eating a balanced diet will keep bones and ligaments strong and healthy. Getting sufficient vitamin D and calcium is important to bone health to prevent fractures.
  • If you have an existing condition like diabetes, maintain a good control over it to minimize developing complications like peripheral artery disease.
  • Stop smoking since smoking poses a great risk to health and integrity of blood vessels all over the body.

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