Dealing with Toe Deformities

Toe deformities are a common problem that we treat at Patrick Fettinger, DPM. We notice, however, that our Fairfield County patients often have misconceptions about these conditions which can lead to not seeking treatment for them promptly.

Toe deformities do have a few things in common:

  • They are progressive conditions, meaning they will only get worse, not better without some kind of treatment.
  • Left untreated they often lead to secondary foot pain problems like corns and calluses.
  • Your choice of footwear can reduce or exacerbate the level of discomfort if you have a toe deformity.

But each type of deformity has its unique characteristics as well.

Here are three well-known toe deformities and what you need to know about them:

  • Bunion—nearly everyone can recognize a bunion by its characteristic bump on the outside of the big toe. For many patients, this appears ugly and they simply try to hide it from sight by not going barefoot and avoiding sandals and other open-toe shoe styles. A bunion, however, is caused by a bone enlargement that forces the toe out of place and causes it to start to move toward the second toe. As the bunion gets bigger, every step becomes more painful as you flex your toe. It becomes increasingly difficult to wear shoes due to the friction against the enlargement and corns and calluses will form. In some cases, the big toe will also become a sight for arthritis or bursitis.
  • Claw Toe—different from a bunion, claw toe is caused by muscle weakness, usually brought about by nerve damage from a disease such as diabetes or alcoholism. Lack of muscle strength results in toes bending upward from the joints at the ball of the foot and down at the middle joints toward the sole. Corns are likely to develop on the top of the toe or under the ball of the foot due to the pressure exerted by wearing shoes.
  • Hammertoes—in the case of a hammertoe, the bend in the toe can be caused by a muscle imbalance or by wearing shoes that do not fit properly. Toes that are too short in the toe box force the toe into a bent condition. Initially, a hammertoe will be flexible and able to be bent back into its correct position. Left, untreated, however, it can become rigidly fixed in the deformed position.

The good news is that patients seek treatment for toe deformities early on our podiatrist, Dr. Patrick J. Fettinger, has multiple options, both conservative and surgical with which to treat the deformity. Don’t delay, contact our New Fairfield (203-746-9660) or Middlebury (203-598-0357) office as soon as possible for an appointment if you believe you have a toe deformity.

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