What You Need to Know About Hammer Toes

Hammertoe is a foot deformity that occurs due to an imbalance in the tendons, muscles or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight. It creates an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. It usually occurs in the second, third and fourth toes.

 

Causes

The development of hammertoe has been linked to certain footwear, trauma and abnormal balance of the toe muscles. High-heels or tight-fitting shoes have the tendency to crowd the toes into a space that prevent them to lie flat. This curled toe position might eventually stay that way even when you’ve gone barefoot. An injury in which the toes get stubbed, jammed or broken can also lead to the development of hammer toe. An imbalance of the toe muscles leads to instability – this causes the toe to contract.

 

Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors that increase one’s risk of developing hammertoe. The first one is age – the risk of hammertoe increases with age. Women are more likely to develop hammertoe than men. One’s toe length can also be a risk factor. If your second toe is longer than your big toe, chances of developing hammertoe are increased. Certain diseases such as arthritis and diabetes might also make you more prone to developing foot deformities. Heredity also plays a role at certain cases.

 

Complications

At first, a hammertoe might be able to maintain its flexibility. However, longer periods of time might make the tendons of the toe contract and tighten – this can cause your toe to become bent permanently. Your shoes can also rub against the raised part of the toe or toes – this now causes painful calluses or corns.

 

Diagnosis

Your podiatrist can diagnose hammertoe just by examining your foot. He or she might order x-rays to further evaluate the condition of the bones and joints of your toes and feet.

 

Treatment

If your toe is found to still be flexible, your doctor might recommend you to change your footwear into something more comfortable and roomier. You might also be asked to wear orthotics,as these can reposition your toe and relieve the pressure and pain. Exercises might also be recommended to strengthen and stretch your toe muscles. If these conservative treatments still don’t help, a surgery might be required to release the tendon that’s hindering your toe from lying flat. In some other cases, a piece of bone is removed to straighten your toe. This can be done with minimally invasive surgery by a podiatrist like Sheldon Nadal D.P.M.