Hammer toe is a painful foot condition characterized by a bend in the middle joint of the toe. It often affects several toes at once.
What are the symptoms of hammer toe?
The most common symptom of hammer toe is an inability to move the bent and affected toe, or extreme pain that occurs when you try to move it. It can also make it difficult to walk. Due to the friction against your shoes and socks that is caused by hammer toe, the condition is often accompanied by corns and calluses on the tops of your feet.
What causes hammer toe?
The most common cause of hammer toe is wearing shoes that do not fit properly. Tight fitting shoes, as well as shoes that have a boxed-in toe area, can lead to the condition. Women who wear high heels on a daily basis may be more prone to hammer toe because the high heels put pressure on the toes while restricting them from moving around freely.
Trauma is another common cause of hammer toe. Some nerve disorders can also contribute when the toe is not able to fully function. Individuals who have had a stroke or who suffer from diabetes are also more at risk for hammer toe than others who are generally healthy.
How is hammer toe diagnosed?
A doctor will only need to do a physical exam of the toe area in order to determine if you are suffering from hammer toe. Your doctor may suggest an x-ray in order to rule out other issues and to see if the bent toe joints are being caused by other problems within the feet. It is wise to talk to your doctor about all of the symptoms you have that you think could be associated with hammer toe.
How is hammer toe treated?
Minor cases of hammer toe can generally be treated by changing your shoes or wearing special padding in your shoes. Physical therapy of the toes and special toe exercises, along with a brace, can also be effective in treating cases of hammer toe.
For hammer toe that is severe or does not show signs of improving, even after changing your footwear situation, surgery may be utilized in order to release the tendons that are holding your toe in the bent position. Surgery to remove parts of bone are also used in extreme cases and if the condition does not respond to less invasive methods.