, also called hammer toe, deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe in which hammertoe
the toe is bent downward at the middle joint (the proximal interphalangeal
[PIP] joint), such that the overall shape of the toe resembles a hammer. Most cases of hammertoe involve the second toe, and often only one or two toes are affected. In rare cases when all the toes
are involved, a thorough neurological assessment is necessary to evaluate for underlying nerve or spinal cord problems.
Hammer toes can be due to a number of things. Several factors are known to increase the risk of developing hammer toes. Some people are just structurally prone to develop hammer toes (hereditary)
tight footwear is an important factor in the cause of hammer toes as well as providing the pressure that causes the symptoms, weaker small muscles in the foot may also play a role.
Patients with hammer toe(s) may develop pain on the top of the toe(s), tip of the toe, and/or on the ball of the foot. Excessive pressure from shoes may result in the formation of a hardened portion
of skin (corn or callus) on the knuckle and/or ball of the foot. Some people may not recognize that they have a hammer toe, rather they identity the excess skin build-up of a corn.The toe(s) may
become irritated, red, warm, and/or swollen. The pain may be dull and mild or severe and sharp. Pain is often made worse by shoes, especially shoes that crowd the toes. While some hammer toes may
result in significant pain, others may not be painful at all. Painful toes can prevent you from wearing stylish shoes.
Although hammertoes are readily apparent, to arrive at a diagnosis the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. During the physical examination,
the doctor may attempt to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot and will study the contractures of the toes. In addition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the
degree of the deformities and assess any changes that may have occurred.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the toes are still mobile enough that they are able to stretch out and lay flat, the doctor will likely suggest a change of footwear. In addition, she may choose to treat the pain that may result
from the condition. The doctor may prescribe pads to ease the pain of any corns and calluses, and medications ranging from ibuprofen to steroid injections for the inflammation and pain. Other options
for non-surgical treatments include orthotic devices to help with the tendon and muscle imbalance or splinting to help realign the toe. Splinting devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes but the
purpose of each is the same: to stretch the muscles and tendon and flatten the joint to remove the pain and pressure that comes from corns.
Your podiatrist may recommend a surgical procedure if your hammertoes are not helped by the conservative care methods listed above. Surgery for hammertoes is performed to help straighten your crooked
toe. Your surgery will be performed in your podiatrist?s office or at a hospital, depending on the severity of your hammertoe. A metal pin is sometimes used to help your affected toe maintain its
straight position during your recovery.
You can avoid many foot, heel and ankle problems with shoes that fit properly. See your doctor if you have foot pain that's persistent and that affects your ability to walk properly and carry out
other motions with your foot. Also, see your doctor if one or more of your toes has developed a clenched or claw-like appearance.