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Expert Q&A

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Does my numb leg mean I have a circulation problem?

Asked by Hannah, Houston, Texas

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Every time I sit for an hour using my computer, my leg will turn numb. Is it a symptom of bad circulation? I also have purple fingernails.

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. It's not uncommon for a body part to go numb after staying in the same position for a long time, whether sitting or standing. This can be just the result of the excess pressure placed on the nerve or it can also be caused by neck or back trauma, a herniated disk in the spine, or a mass (such as a tumor or infection). Sciatica, which is pain in the buttocks, leg or low back, resulting from compression or irritation of one of the roots of the large sciatic nerve, is a common cause of pain and sometimes numbness in the buttocks and upper leg while sitting.

Without knowing more about your situation, it's hard to know whether the purple fingernails you report are related to the numbness. You are correct that poor circulation can cause both conditions, although it's also possible that your numbness and nail discoloration are not related. Poor circulation has a number of potential causes, including blocked arteries, varicose veins, liver or kidney disease, extreme cold, or as a side effect of certain drugs or medications. Patients with poor blood flow to their legs also might experience pain in their legs while walking (called claudication) or a loss of hair on their feet.

Regardless of the cause of your numbness, I encourage you to discuss all your symptoms with your physician and in the meantime, be sure to move your legs frequently or get up and walk around periodically when you're working on your computer. Good luck!

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