Common Health Problems that Afflict Toes

Toes are subjected to a great deal of stress, strain and pressure over the course of a day. Some common, treatable toe conditions include corns, bunions and hammer toes.

Corns:

Areas of thickened skin that develop to protect the toe from irritation are referred to as corns. They develop when something repeatedly rubs against the toe and causes excessive pressure.

Corns can be quite painful if they become overly thick. They can also lead to serious foot problems in diabetics and those with poor circulation.

Causes:

Corns often form when a toe rubs against the inside of footwear. Individuals who have other foot deformities (i.e. hammer toes) are more susceptible to the development of corns.

Symptoms:

Typical symptoms of corns include:

  • Rough, dull appearance.
  • Rounded and raised areas of thickened skin.
  • Occasional pain.

Treatment:

Mild corns may not need treatment. However, if ill-fitting footwear is causing corns, it should be replaced. Look for footwear with a wide box toe like many of the models created by Dansko.

If corns are especially painful and uncomfortable, a podiatrist should be consulted. Proper treatment is important for those who have diabetes, poor circulation, and other serious medical illnesses.

Bunions:

Bunions are bony bumps at the base of the big toe, typically causing the joint to become swollen and painful. They develop when joint dislocations progressively cause the big toe to move closer to the second toe.

Causes:

Bunions form as the result of imbalance of the foot joints causing instability in the big toe joint. This can happen because of the following:

  • Improperly fitting shoes.
  • Abnormal walking gait.
  • Hereditary foot problems.
  • Arthritis.
  • Injuries.
  • Birth defects.
  • Neuromuscular disorders.

Symptoms:

Patients who have bunions often experience:

  • Pain and swelling.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Corns and calluses.
  • Ingrown toenails.

Treatment:

If not treated properly, bunions tend to grow larger and more painful as time goes on. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. However, early treatment is thought to be the best option.

Mild bunion pain and discomfort can be treated by:

  • Properly fitting shoes.
  • Ice packs.
  • Taping toes into a normal position.
  • Pain medications.
  • Orthotics.
  • Physical therapy.

Severe cases of bunions can be treated with one of many surgical options depending on the symptoms and cause of the condition. The most common bunion procedure is known as a bunionectomy (i.e. removal of swollen joint tissue and part of the bone to straighten the big toe). Check out our selection of bunion relief products found here.

Hammer toes:

Hammer toe refers to a crooked, deviated and contracted toe. While this toe condition is typically caused by muscle imbalance, it is frequently aggravated by ill-fitting footwear and socks that cramp the toes. Eventually, the tendons responsible for moving the toe up and down begin to tug with uneven tension. Then, the toe starts to buckle resulting in an abnormally "V"-shaped bending of the little toes.

Causes:

While the majority of hammer toe cases develop from an underlying muscle imbalance, it can also be caused by:

  • Arthritis.
  • Hereditary conditions.
  • Injuries.
  • Ill-fitting shoes/socks.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of hammer toe include:

  • Pain and irritation of affected toe(s), especially when wearing shoes.
  • Corns and calluses resulting from ongoing friction between the toes and shoe.

Treatment:

If not adequately treated, this foot condition will ultimately worsen. Treatment depends on severity but may include:

  • Proper fitting shoes. You can find plenty of specialized products like hammer toe socks at Footwear etc.
  • Protective pads put onto corns and calluses.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen).
  • Orthotic devices for muscle imbalance.
  • Arthroplasty surgery for extremely rigid hammer toe (e.g. removal of a small section of bone from the affected joint).

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