Symptoms and Causes of Hammertoe
Hammertoe is basically an abnormal bending in the toe joint. It can affect more the one joint, so more than one toe may be affected. Hammertoes can make wearing shoes difficult and can cause other foot problems to arise.
There are several factors that may cause a hammertoe to develop, including a muscle/tendon imbalance, wearing improperly fitting footwear that cramps the toes, trauma, such as a broken toe, or genetics.
Typically, hammertoes start out as just a mild deformity and are flexible, but as time goes on and the deformity progresses, the hammertoe will become less flexible and more rigid. Once the deformity gets to that stage, it is much more difficult to treat with non-invasive treatments and surgery may be necessary. Plus, the longer hammertoes are left untreated, the more likely it is that you will develop other foot issues, like blisters, corns or calluses. Hammertoes will never just go away or get better on their own. If you have hammertoes, you should see a podiatrist for treatment.
Symptoms of a hammertoe include:
- Difficulty wearing shoes
- The development of corns or calluses
- Pain in the toe joint
- Restricted motion of the toe
Treatment for the deformity depends on the severity of the case. There are a variety of treatments options available for hammertoes. Your podiatrist may recommend one or more of the following:
- Medication. An NSAID like ibuprofen may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain. (Remember to always consult a doctor before taking any medication.)
- Treatment for the corns or calluses that have developed, such as trimming or using non-medicated corn pads.
- The use of splints or straps to re-align the deformed toes.
- Shoe changes. For hammertoe sufferers, it is important to avoid shoes with crowded toe boxes, like pointed-toed shoes or high heels.
- Custom orthotics or shoe inserts.
- Corticosteroid injections.
Surgery for Hammertoes
If the deformity has progressed to point of rigidity, surgery may be a necessity. There are a variety of factors that go into choosing the correct option, such as you age, activity, the severity of your condition/number of toes involved, etc. Your podiatrist will discuss the surgical options with you and help you decide on the best plan of action for your treatment.
Arthroplasty is the surgical procedure most often used to correct hammertoe deformities. It involves removing a small part of the bone from the joint that is affected.
Arthrodesis is another possibility, but it is usually only used in more severe cases of hammertoe. It may be used if more than one toe or joint is affected. With arthrodesis, the surgeon fuses a small joint in the toe to straighten it out. A pin is often inserted to hold the toe in place while it heals.
Those are just two of the most commonly used procedures available for hammertoe correction. There are more and the many options can be discussed with your podiatrist.
The time it takes to recover from hammertoe surgery will depend on the procedure chosen and the specific case.