How do you determine which health issue is causing numbness in my mother's legs?

3 answers | Last updated: Dec 05, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is almost 90 and has congestive heart failure, asthma, high blood pressure, spinal stenosis. She is on blood thinners, high blood pressure meds, etc. She is experiencing episodes where her legs go numb and she has to sit down before she falls. After these episodes she is nauseated and extremely tired. How do you determine if it's her heart or the stenosis causing it?

Expert Answers

James Frank is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the V.A. Medical Center in San Francisco.

It's hard to say, but this isn't a typical symptom of congestive heart failure. Usually with heart failure, you'd have exercise limitations, shortness of breath, and swelling in the legs. Since she's not losing consciousness or feeling dizzy or light-headed, it makes things like arrhythmias common with CHF less likely. I'd guess that her spinal stenosis is the likely cause, but I'd need a lot more information to say for sure.

Your mother's doctor should definitely evaluate her. In this case, a physical exam would probably be the most useful thing, to look for evidence of worsening heart failure and neurologic abnormalities in her legs. If the neurologic abnormalities are worse than at her last exam, an MRI of the spine might be indicated to confirm that stenosis is the cause.

Community Answers

Jesuschick answered...

I am not sure about heart disease, However I have spinal stenosis and my legs and feet go numb and the tingle all the time. Bottom line though, I would ask her docter exacly what it is comming from on her next visit.

Blessings69 answered...

I also have spinal stenosis and I have to use a walker, due to my legs and back hurting so bad and becoming so weak I can't walk any further and I fall. If she doesn't have a walker I'd talk to her doctor And see what he says about prescribing her one. I've been to 3 different neurologists and none of them wanted to operate on my back and said it very likely cause more damage than good.