Do you have a hammertoe that is becoming increasingly painful and debilitating? At Paul S. DeMarco, DPM, we want patients to know that hammertoes are a progressive deformity. What this means is that without treatment, they will only get worse over time. For most patients, a hammertoe is caused by a mechanical or structural issue in the foot that results in a toe bending downward. This initially causes some irritation when wearing shoes as the toe rubs up against the front of the shoe. Over time, corns and calluses or even open sores may form. At first the toe is still flexible but eventually it will become rigidly stuck in the deformed position, creating a permanently disabling condition.
Seek Treatment Early
There are several non-invasive treatments that can be used in caring for hammertoe. Our podiatrist, Dr. Paul S. DeMarco, will start by examining your hammertoe and assessing its current range of motion. X-rays (which can be done right in our Somers Point office) will most likely be taken so that the foot doctor can get an accurate idea of how far your hammertoe has progressed. Once that is known, one or more of the following treatments may be recommended:
- Footwear modifications—the most obvious change is to make sure the shoes you wear are as accommodating as possible. Avoiding high heels that force pressure on the toes or pointy, narrow shoes is essential. The foot doctor will recommend that you choose shoes with roomy toe boxes and heels of less than two inches.
- Padding—if you have corns or calluses, padding may help protect the affected area and lessen pain and pressure.
- Splinting/Strapping—these can be used to realign a toe that is bent.
- Orthotics—with the use of custom orthotics it may be possible to correct a muscle/tendon imbalance that is the cause of the hammertoe. This will greatly slow the progression of the deformity.
In cases where the hammertoe has progressed to the very rigid stage or open sores have developed which do not seem to heal with any of the above treatments, the foot doctor may recommend surgery. In many cases patients with hammertoe have other foot deformities as well, which the podiatrist may suggest correcting during the same surgery.
Of course, the best scenario is not to let hammertoe get to this point. If you have noticed a toe starting to bend unnaturally, contact us at (609) 927-4894 for an appointment at your soonest convenience.