Although a hammertoe is easy to identify by its characteristic bend at toe joint which makes it resemble a hammer, other facts about its causes and treatment are not as well known. This condition affects the second, third and fourth toe and is one that we treat often at Paul S. DeMarco, DPM. Below are some True/False statements about this deformity. Let’s see how much you know!
Hammertoes are hereditary, so there’s nothing you can do to prevent them.
False: While the faulty foot structure that creates the muscle/tendon imbalance that often leads to hammertoe can be genetic, it is not the only cause of this deformity. Your footwear plays a key role in the development of hammertoe: shoes with high heels and pointy fronts that squish the toes or those with overly tight toe boxes can slowly force a toe to start to bend at the joint. This is particularly true if one toe is longer than the others. A heavy object falling on a toe or other trauma can also make someone more prone to hammertoes.
Hammertoes are painful.
True. The constant pressure on the toe joint that causes it to bend forward is very painful and makes wearing shoes, walking and standing difficult. In addition, there may be a burning sensation, redness and irritation around the joint. Because of the unnatural position of the toe, shoes rub against the top of the toe causing corns and calluses to form. Sometimes, the skin may be rubbed raw and open sores will form. This is a major health threat if you have diabetes or another disease that impacts the immune and/or circulatory system.
Hammertoes can go away on their own.
False. Hammertoes are a progressive condition. They typically start out with only mild symptoms but over time will progress to the point where the toe can no longer be flexed or return to its normal position on its own.
Surgery is the only way to correct a hammertoe.
False. There are many conservative treatment options the foot doctor can use if the hammertoe is diagnosed in the early stages. Our board certified foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Paul S. DeMarco, will examine your toe and ask questions about your symptoms and lifestyle before formulating a treatment plan. Splinting and taping can realign the toe to its proper position. Custom orthotics may be prescribed to correct the muscle/tendon imbalance that is causing the hammertoe. Pain relief can be brought about with anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation and padding for corns and calluses.
Call our Somers Point office today at (609) 927-4894 to make an appointment if you suspect you have a hammertoe forming. Getting help for a foot problem sooner rather than later is always the right answer.