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General Medical Questions
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Question : What would cause the bottoms of my feet to "burn" at night when I go to bed?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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June 29, 2012
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A:

The sensation of burning feet, especially at night, can be caused by several situations.

If the burning feels like increased heat without pain, numbness or tingling, this could be related to your small blood vessels dilating. This might happen in response to the hormonal changes of menopause. This could also happen with Raynaud’s disease. Here, blood vessels first constrict, which decreases blood flow. This is followed by the blood vessels dilating, increasing blood flow. This results in redness and a hot feeling in fingers and toes.

If the burning is more than just a hot sensation, see your doctor. He or she should evaluate you for:

  • Peripheral neuropathy, a disorder of the nerves in the legs and arms, or
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) (formerly called PVD)

Along with burning at night, peripheral neuropathy typically causes numbness and tingling in the feet, often with pain. The nerve damage of this disorder is most often related to diabetes or overuse of alcohol. There are many other possible causes for peripheral neuropathy. These include an inherited disorder, some medicine, and a nutritional deficiency.

With PAD, there is less blood flow to one or both legs. It may not cause any symptoms. Or it may cause pain in the calf when walking, which is relieved by rest. This is called intermittent claudication. PAD with burning only and no claudication would be unusual.

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