Foot deformities, such as Hammertoe and Mallet Toe, occur because of an imbalance either in the muscles, tendons or ligaments that usually hold the toes straight. The cause of development of such deformities is often associated to the type of shoes one wears, to one’s foot structure, as well to trauma and certain disease processes. An abnormal bend in the middle joint of any given toe is labelled as Hammertoe. As for Mallet Toe, it often affects the joint located near the toenail. Both Hammertoe and Mallet Toe normally occur in one’s second, third, or fourth toe. To help relieve the pain and pressure caused by Hammertoe and Mallet Toe, one ought to change one’s footwear, or alternatively wear shoe inserts. Some patients with severe cases of Hammertoe or Mallet Toe may require a surgery to get relief.
What is hammertoe?
Hammer toe is a term used to describe a condition caused by partial or complete dislocation of the toe joints of where the toe joins with the rest of the foot. This condition causes an abnormal “buckling” or contraction of the affected toe. Mallet toes and claw toes are other examples of crooked toes. These defects are similar to hammer toe but the buckling takes place at different points on the toes.
Crooked toes do not cause pain by themselves. However, as the toe deformity advances to other stages, the toe rubs against the shoe and irritates. Subsequent irritations make the body to build more skin on the affected area to offer protection to the affected area. This thicker skin is commonly called a corn. At the beginning, this corn helps to reduce irritation to the bone prominence. However, as it thickens further, it also starts to contribute to the pressure caused by the shoe. Trimming the corn periodically may serve as a temporary solution to this problem. However, as time goes by, a bursa may develop and become inflamed (bursitis). The area then turns to a red colour, it becomes swollen, and the patient starts to experience pain.
The lesser toes have two joints while the great toe has one joint. When the defect occurs on the joint closest to the nail, then the condition is called a mallet toe. In this case, the corn usually develops at the tip of the toe because the pressure is applied at the tip of the last toe bone and not on the flat part under the toe’s tip. On the other hand, if this deformity occurs on the other joint that joins the foot to the rest of the toe, the condition is called a hammertoe. The corn usually appears on top of the toe in such cases.
Another feature similar to a corn is the calluses. However, it appears at the bottom of the feet and should not be confused with corns. They are caused by other forms. However, when a hammertoe becomes severe, it may create downward pressure on the metatarsal bones at the foot’s ball and contribute to the causes of calluses.
One may have this condition but it is not always painful until you irritate it, for example by wearing tight shoes. One may also have symptoms like a large toe joint and a thick skin layer but the others like redness or swelling are not there. However, if shoes apply pressure and rubbing on the joint, the patient may experience pain ranging between pinches and sharp and burning sensations. The toe, foot, or leg may also cramp due to abnormal functioning of muscles and tendons in areas they should not because of the deformed joint. The patient may also experience the pain of arthritis when standing for long hours.
Other foot conditions and Hammertoe
The rotation and contraction of the toes can be a result of poor foot mechanics which eventually results into overpronation. Overpronation results to the formation of flat or low arches, which in turn cause the foot muscles and tendons to twist toes and joints from their original positions. Over-supination (high arched feet) may also cause similar conditions.
A bunion which is severe may also lead to a hammertoe. If the great toe twists over the second one, its joints may get dislocated. As a result, the shoe rubs against the toe and leads to the formation of a corn. However, the prime problem of this situation is the abnormal positioning of the toe. This condition could be hereditary. The pressure on the joint starts to irritate the crooked joint and the skin becomes thicker to form more protective matter. As the skin becomes thicker, the pressure also increases. This series of events could end in breaking the skin, forming a bursitis, reddening of the affected area, and eventually infection of the area.
Treatment for Hammertoe
Do you have painful blisters, corns and even ulceration associated with your toes?
You may have a form of hammertoe which can affect any of the second, third, fourth, or fifth (little) toes. Abnormal bending of the toes can put pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing problems to develop.
You podiatrist is skilled at nonsurgical care of hammertoes but for persistent issues a consultation with a surgeon should be considered.
Minimal invasive Surgical options might be considered to have those painful toes addressed permanently with an office-based procedure performed under local anaesthetic. These procedures allow immediate weight bearing and return to footwear quickly. More complex conditions may still require a hospital day stay with more extensive procedures.Contact us on 03 9077 5915 for further assessment and treatment.