Everyone has an idea of what normal toes look like, but sometimes people have deformities that have affected their appearance. Whereas these are not life-threatening conditions, the ailments known as claw toe, hammer toe, and mallet toe can lead to discomfort while wearing tight footwear and self-consciousness when going barefoot at the beach. For those who experience any of these conditions, it is important to understand what is going on and what kind of treatment options exist.
What Is Claw Toe?
It is a condition where the toe is bent up at the joint at the base of the foot and then bent down at the middle joint. The condition means that the toe claws into the bottom of the shoe, thus the name, and can be quite uncomfortable. This deformity presents a greater of risk calluses than a normal toe would and can become permanent over time. This is not a serious disorder and differs from hammer toe and mallet toe by the fact that two joints are impacted, instead of only one.
Where Did My Claw Toe Come From?
There are a variety of causes for the condition, including stroke, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, but tight footwear is actually the most common cause of these toe problems. Women are more likely than men to develop curled toes, because they are more likely to wear shoes with high heels and narrow toes. Wearing these kinds of shoes causes toe muscles to get out of balance or remain in a bent position for an extended period of time. As this happens, muscles tighten and tendons shorten, which makes it harder to straighten the toe.
In addition to ill-fitting footwear, there are, as previously noted, other causes for curled toes. The common thread amongst most of these alternative causes is there is either nerve damage or inflammation that weakens foot muscles and leads to imbalances, causing toes to bend in an unnatural fashion.
What Symptoms Should I Look For?
The symptoms for claw toe are pretty straightforward; toes are bent upward at base of foot and downward from middle joint. In severe cases, it is possible for toes to bend downward at top joints and the curled toes end up under the foot. Corns or calluses may develop on top of the affected toe or under ball of foot, due to muscular imbalance issues.
When should I get in to see a doctor?
Make an appointment to see Mark Gasparini, D.P.M., right away if toes start to show signs of becoming clawed. If caught early enough, they can still be flexible and adjusted into normal positioning. If too much time lapses, however, they will become permanently deformed and would require surgery, which we would like to avoid if possible.
What Can Be Done about Claw Toe?
Treatment options include home care, such as wearing footwear that fits properly, gently stretching the affected toe by hand into the normal position, and exercising your toes by picking up small objects from the floor. Medical care options might entail the use of a special pad to redistribute your bodyweight or the use of orthotics or splints. If surgery is needed to correct a permanent claw-like condition, you will need to plan on six to eight weeks for the toe to heal properly.
If you need help with a claw toe, or any other foot or ankle ailment that is giving you problems, call Mark Gasparini, D.P.M., P.C., in Massapequa, NY. Call (516) 804-9038 to schedule an appointment today.
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