While hammertoes may seem like a benign condition, they can impact your mobility without treatment. At North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists in Gainesville and Lake City, Florida, Joshua Epstein, DPM, AACFAS, FACPM, and Sarina Epstein, DPM, AACFAS, can help prevent complications from hammertoes through accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment. Call North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists today or schedule an appointment online to learn more.
A hammertoe is a foot condition in which the joints in the toe cause the second, third, or fourth toe to loosely bend. Over time, the toe becomes more rigid, making it more vulnerable to injury. Hammertoes only worsen over time, so it’s important to seek a diagnosis as early as possible. Without early intervention, the affected toe may not respond to non-surgical treatment.
The most common sign of a hammertoe is a toe that curls at the top or middle joint in the toe. Other signs of hammertoes include:
In advanced cases, the skin that covers the joints of the toes can become extremely irritated, to the point that painful sores form.
The primary cause of a hammertoe is an imbalance between the muscles and tendons in the toe. Having a very long toe can exacerbate the problem and accelerate the damage that stems from this imbalance. It also increases your risk of injury. Some individuals are genetically prone to hammertoes.
Wearing poor-fitting shoes can aggravate hammertoes. While tight, narrow shoes squeeze the toe, overly loose shoes can’t prevent your toe from bending out of position. Wearing shoes that fit properly can significantly reduce your risk of injury with a hammertoe.
In most cases, hammertoes are visibly apparent to your foot and ankle surgeon at North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists. Still, your doctor must review your medical history, ask about your symptoms, and perform a comprehensive exam of your foot. They may also order imaging tests to identify any internal structural deformities.
Non-surgical intervention is always the first step in treating hammertoes. The most effective non-surgical hammertoe treatments include:
Narrow shoes, such as high heels, squeeze your toes and increase your risk of injury. Wearing wide-toed shoes can help minimize your vulnerability to painful corns and calluses.
If you have corns and calluses — buildups of tissue — padding can help reduce skin friction and irritation.
Orthotics are custom-made shoe inserts that can correct structural foot imbalances. These devices provide the much-needed cushion and support for hammertoes.
Anti-inflammatory medications can reduce swelling to relieve pain from advanced hammertoes.
If necessary, your foot and ankle surgeon may perform a procedure to improve flexibility in your toe. They may also recommend surgery for any corns or calluses you have.
To learn more about hammertoes, call North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists or book an appointment online now.