What causes leg burning sensation?

Leg burning sensation can be caused by nerve or skin damage in the legs and surrounding tissues. Burns from chemicals or extreme heat, as well as exposure to poisonous substances, may damage the nerves in the skin, resulting in a sensation of leg burning.

Damage to the peripheral nerves (peripheral neuropathy) can also cause a leg burning sensation. Peripheral neuropathy may be due to specific diseases or conditions, such as diabetes or alcoholism, that can affect nerve health, or it may have no known cause.

Physical causes of leg burning sensation

Leg burning sensation may be due to physical causes including:

  • Burns, including sunburn
  • Exposure to cold
  • Exposure to toxic or poisonous compounds
  • High-intensity exercise
  • Leg injury
  • Pressure on nerve

Diseases or disorders causing leg burning sensation

A number of diseases can cause burning legs including:

  • Alcoholic neuropathy (nerve damage associated with excessive alcohol consumption)
  • Cancer
  • Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage due to high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (autoimmune nerve disorder)
  • Meralgia paresthetica (pain in outer thigh due to nerve compression)
  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, which is a narrowing or blockage of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, which limits blood flow to the extremities)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)
  • Shingles (reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which remains in the body in an inactive state following chickenpox)
  • Spinal stenosis, disc disease, or other conditions of the spine
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Serious or life-threatening causes of leg burning sensation

In some cases, leg burning sensation may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack (temporary stroke-like symptoms that may be a warning sign of an impending stroke)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of leg burning sensation

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your leg burning sensation including:

  • How long have you felt the burning sensation in your leg?
  • Where do you feel the burning sensation?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of leg burning sensation?

Because leg burning sensation can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Brain damage (if the sensation of leg burning is due to stroke)
  • Chronic pain
  • Loss of limb
  • Permanent nerve damage

References:

NINDS paresthesia information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/paresthesia/paresthesia.htm. Accessed April 30, 2011.

Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/peripheralneuropathy/detail_peripheralneuropathy.htm. Accessed April 30, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

What is leg burning sensation?

Leg burning sensation can result from a number of causes, including damage to nerves in the legs from exposure to extreme heat or cold or to toxic substances. Leg burning sensation might also result from a circulation problem that impairs blood flow to the legs, a leg injury, or intense exercise. Another possible cause of leg burning sensation is meralgia paresthetica, which is pain in the oute... Read more about leg burning sensationintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with leg burning sensation?

Leg burning sensation may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the legs also involve other body systems.

Leg symptoms that may occur along with leg burning sensation

Leg burning sensation may accompany other symptoms affecting the legs including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 5, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves