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Affecting any but the big toe, hammertoe is characterized by a bending of one or both toe joints. The deformity generally worsens over time, and patients may develop corns or calluses as a result of bent toes rubbing against shoes. Untreated hammertoes become rigid, leading to sores, infection and pain.
Noninvasive measures can be taken to alleviate symptoms in the beginning stages of the condition and may prevent hammertoe from advancing if caught early. However, if the condition continues to progress, or is left unacknowledged or untreated for an extended period of time, toes will develop sores, infections, and the intensity of the pain will increase drastically.
The most efficient way to prevent the development of hammertoe is by wearing properly fitted shoes. Avoid shoes that feel too snug on your feet or increase the pressure being applied to your toes. If you frequently wear high-heels, the heel height should be two inches or less, to ensure that a manageable amount of tow pressure is retained, especially when heels leave your toes bent for an extended period of time.
Other common causes of hammertoe include:
Symptoms of hammertoe range in severity, but include:
The physical characteristics of hammertoe make diagnosis readily apparent, but our physicians will perform a physical examination to further certify that the toe deformity is, in fact, hammertoe. During the exam, our physicians will manipulate the patient’s foot in ways to reproduce the symptoms that are being experienced and study the contractures of the affected toes. X-rays can help to determine whether other deformities are present and to further clarify the severity of the condition.
In the early stages, flexible hammertoes may be treated with nonsurgical methods. Our foot and ankle experts may prescribe:
If conservative measures fail or the toe has become tight and painful, our surgeons may suggest minimally invasive surgery to reposition the tendons and straighten the toe. The procedure reduces trauma to surrounding tissues, minimizes scarring and offers a faster recovery time. In some cases, traditional surgical correction may be required.