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Hammer Toes 101

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If you have toes that curl up, you likely have what is commonly known as hammer toes. This is a condition where the proximal interphalangeal joint of the second, third, and fourth and pinky toes become deformed, causing them to become permanently bent. In addition to being unsightly, this condition can also be painful and make walking and other activities more difficult. Here is what you need to know about this condition.

Who Gets Hammer Toes?

Hammer toes can be causes by genetics or by environmental factors. Some people inherit the propensity to this condition and the condition runs in families. Their tendons, the fibrous tissue that attaches muscles to bones, are too short, and this causes the toes to curl.

Poor-fitting shoes and extended use of high heels can encourage a hammer toe to develop. Aging, diabetes, and those who have suffered from a stroke or a spinal cord or other injury that has caused nerve damage may also find themselves with a hammer toe.  

What Are the Side Effects of Hammertoes?

Just one toe may be affected or you may have signs of a hammertoe on every toe, on both feet. Usually, one toe doesn't cause a huge problem if the right shoes are worn and the toes have plenty of room in the toe box part of the shoe.

Hammer toes can cause considerable problems, however, especially if more than one toe or foot is affected. Toes will rub against shoes, making painful sore spots. This can lead to a blister, callous, or an open sore. This can be particular dangerous for diabetics whose bodies already have a difficult time healing skin infections and wounds.

What Is the Treatment for Hammer Toe?

Milder cases may be managed with orthotics, which is the use of custom foot supports, braces, and splints to more adequately support the foot and toes. Toe stretching exercises may also be recommended. Sometimes children will outgrow the condition. For those with more severe cases, the deformity will need to be surgically repaired.

There are different types of corrective surgery, and your podiatrist will determine the best surgical method depending on your individual case.

  • ArthroplastyThis surgery aids the straightening of the toes by removing part of the joint where the toe is bent.
  • ArthrodesisThis procedure removes the entire joint, and the bone is usually stabilized with a small pin.
  • Tendon transferThis procedure relocates the tendons from the underside of the toe to the top side. This helps straighten the toe by giving it a little extra tendon length.

To learn more about this process, contact services like Collier Podiatry PA.