The term “Hammertoe” is used to describe an often-painfuldeformity of the smaller toes (2-5). It is generally the bending downward ofthe middle joints in the second, third, fourth, or fifth toes. Usually, thisstarts out mild and progressively gets worse over time, unless caused by atraumatic injury. Unfortunately, a hammertoe will not go away if left untreatedand requires medical treatment from a qualified foot/ankle doctor. If leftuntreated, hammertoes can become rigid and will need surgical intervention totreat. Because of this, it is best to see a doctor as soon as you start to noticeor experience symptoms. Arkansas Foot & Ankle Specialists has astaff of qualified podiatric surgeons who are well versed in the diagnosing andtreating of hammertoes.
Causes and Symptoms
Hammertoe occurs when there is a muscle and tendon imbalance inthe toe and surrounding structures. This imbalance comes frommechanical/structural change over time in to create the deformity in somepeople. Shoes with tight toe boxes or high heels that may force the toes intothe front of the shoe can also lead to hammertoe. Because of this,hammertoe pain is more commonly found in women, although men are not withoutthe risk. If the hammertoe is already present due to a muscle/tendon imbalance,poor fitting shoes can irritate or speed the progression.
Signs and symptoms of hammertoe include:
- Bending of the toe with an enlarged joint
- Pain of the affected toe
- Inflammation, burning, or redness
- Corns or calluses on top the toe or between two toes (this is caused by the unnatural rubbing due to the bending of the toe)
- Open sores (found in severe cases)
In the early stages of hammertoe, it may be easy to straightenthe toe out. As hammertoe progresses, it will become increasingly stiff / rigidand more painful to straighten. Eventually, you will not be able to straightenit at all. Surgical intervention is often necessary to correct it, and moreeasily accomplished in the early stages.
Diagnoses and Treatment
To diagnose hammertoe, the doctor will assess the visual stateof the toe and will ask you about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. An X-ray at the office will verify thedegree of curvature in your toe and show the bone and joint structure.
If diagnosed early, there are a number of non-surgicaltreatments available to treat hammertoe.
The doctor may suggest/prescribe:
You shouldavoid pointed toes, high heels above two inches, or shoes where the toe area istoo tight.
- Padding for corns and calluses
The pads willprotect the corns and calluses from irritation. These may be over-the-counteror prescribed.
- Orthotic devices
An orthoticdevice that is custom fit to your foot can help regulate the muscle and tendonimbalance associated with hammertoe.
Oralnonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, might reduceinflammation and pain.
- Injection therapy
Corticosteroidinjections may ease pain and inflammation
If the hammertoe is rigid and painful, or open sores havedeveloped, surgery is necessary. Depending on the condition of the toe, yourfoot surgeon may relax or move the tendons that caused the toe to bend. Thesurgeon may also need to correct the bone alignment, fuse the bones of thejoint together or remove parts of the joint depending on the severity of thecondition.
If you are experiencing hammertoe pain in your toes and wouldlike to speak with a doctor, you may request an appointment online or come seeus at our Fayetteville office or call us at (479) 935-3378.