Hammertoe is a common deformity that afflicts people as they grow older. There is a theory that Hammertoes can be caused or exacerbated by tight-fitting shoes that force the toes together. It’s also believed to be genetic. The condition tends to run in families, as we have noted in our clinics in Dallas, DeSoto and Sunnyvale (Texas).
Hammertoes most often impacts the joints of the second, third, fourth or fifth (little) affected toe.
The most common cause of Hammertoe is a muscle or tendon irregularity. This irregularity leads to mechanical (structural) changes in the foot that occur over time.
Consequences of Hammertoes
The condition may be lead to pain or irritation, or difficulty in walking. Corns (thickened skin) may form on the top, side, or at the end of the toe, or between two toes, due to constant friction. Calluses (another type of thickened skin) may form on the bottom of the toe or on the ball of the foot. Even without corns and calluses, Hammertoes may be painful as the joint becomes increasingly deformed over time. Hammertoes have a tendency to get progressively worse, and do not resolve themselves without medical intervention.
In the early stages, Hammertoes are flexible and the symptoms can often be managed with noninvasive measures. If left untreated, Hammertoes may become more rigid and eventually will not respond to non-surgical treatment. In more severe cases of Hammertoe, open sores may form. Because of the progressive nature of Hammertoes, they should receive early attention.
What Causes Hammertoe?
Hammertoes may be aggravated by shoes that crowd the toes. In some cases, ill-fitting shoes may actually be the root cause. A person might develop Hammertoe if a toe is forced into a narrow toe box. Occasionally, Hammertoes may follow trauma, such as a broken toe suffered in an accident. For the most part, Hammertoes seem to be congenital.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Hammertoes
At our clinics in DeSoto, Dallas and Sunnyvale, we have a variety of treatment options for Hammertoe, depending on the severity of the condition when it is diagnosed.
Non-surgical procedures include:
- Padding. Your foot and ankle specialist may recommend pads to shield corns. We advise our patients to avoid medicated pads that may contain a small amount of acid, which can irritate the feet.
- Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen may be prescribed for pain and inflammation.
- Grooming. Calluses and corns can be trimmed here in our clinic. There are ways avoid the risk of cuts and infection during grooming.
- Appropriate footwear. We recommend comfortable shoes with a deep, roomy toe box and heels no higher than two inches.
- Support. Our staff of specialists may prescribe a splint or other support to help realign the bent toe.
- Orthotics. A customized orthotic may help control the muscle or tendon imbalance.
- Injections. Corticosteroids are sometimes employed to ease any pain caused by Hammertoe.
If conservative treatment fails to bring adequate relief, our medical staff may discuss surgical options.