What is a hammertoe?
A hammer toe is a term that is commonly used to describe any type of toe deformity. It is a common problem that may or may not be a problem.
What does a hammer toe look like:
In a hammertoe the deformity usually exists in one toe (at the proximal inter phalangeal joint) - the base of the toe points upward and the end of the toe points down.
Hammer toe symptoms:
The symptoms of a hammer toe are usually first noticed when a corn develops on the top of the toe and becomes painful, usually when wearing tight shoes. There may be a bursa under the corn or instead of a corn, depending on the pressure. Most of the symptoms are due to pressure from footwear on the toe. There may be a callus under the metatarsal head at the base of the toe. Initially a hammer toe is usually flexible, but when longstanding it becomes more rigid.
What causes hammer toes:
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.
Prevention of hammer toes:
Prevention of a hammer toe can be difficult as symptoms do not usually start until the problem is well established. Wearing shoes that have extra room in the toes may help the problem or slow down its development.
Treatment of hammer toes:
A number of approaches can be undertaken to the manage a hammer toe:
- it is important that any footwear advice is followed. The correct amount of space in the toe box will allow room for the toes to function without excessive pressure.
- if a corn is present, this will need to be treated.
- if the toe is still flexible, it may be possible to use splints or tape to try and correct the toe. Without correct fitting footwear, this is often unsuccessful.
- padding is often used to get pressure off the toe to help the symptoms.
- if conservative treatment is unsuccessful at helping the symptoms, surgery is often a good option.
Hammer toe surgery:
Surgery to correct for a hammertoe may be performed as a day procedure. There are several different types of procedures that can be used depending on the foot structure and if the deformity is flexible or rigid.