A Hammer toe
is a term used to describe a crooked, deviated, or contracted toe. Although the
condition usually stems from muscle imbalance, it is often aggravated by poor-fitting Hammer toes
shoes or socks that cramp the toes. Over a period of years, the tendons that move
the toe up and down begin to pull the toe with unequal tension, and the toe then begins to buckle or become contracted, causing an abnormal ?v?-shaped bending of the little toes. Patients with this
condition often experience pain, swelling, redness and stiffness in the affected toes.
The most common cause of hammertoe is a muscle/tendon imbalance. This imbalance, which leads to a bending of the toe, results from mechanical (structural) changes in the foot that occur over time in
some people. Hammertoes may be aggravated by shoes that don?t fit properly. A hammertoe may result if a toe is too long and is forced into a cramped position when a tight shoe is worn. Occasionally,
hammertoe is the result of an earlier trauma to the toe. In some people, hammertoes are inherited.
Symptoms include sharp pain in the middle of the toe and difficulty straightening the toe. People with hammertoe may also develop blisters, which are fluid-filled pockets of skin, because the bent
toe is likely to rub against the inside of a shoe. This increased friction may also lead to calluses, which are areas of thickened skin, and corns, which are hard lumps that may form on or between
toes. Symptoms may be minor at first, but they can worsen over time.
Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some
types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe. If the deformed toe is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn
from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for signs of infection or gout (arthritis from crystal deposits).
Non Surgical Treatment
Symptomatic treatment of hammertoes consists of such things as open toed shoes or hammertoe pads. There are over the counter corn removers for temporally reducing the painful callous often seen with
the hammertoe. These medications must be used with caution. They are a mild acid that burns the callous off. These medications should never be used for corns or callouses between the toes. Persons
with diabetes or bad circulation should never use these products.
If a person's toes have become very inflexible and unresponsive to non-invasive means of treatment and if open sores have developed as a result of constant friction, they may receive orthopaedic
surgery to correct the deformity. The operation is quick and is commonly performed as an out-patient procedure. The doctor administers a local anesthetic into the person's foot to numb the site of
the operation. The person may remain conscious as the surgeon performs the procedure. A sedative might also be administered to help calm the person if they are too anxious.
To help prevent hammer toes from developing, wear shoes or boots that provide sufficient width in the toe box to ensure minimal compression. Use inserts that help the toes flatten out and spread and
give sufficient support to the metatarsal arch in the forefoot. If hammer toes have already formed, padded socks help protect the tops and the tips of the hammer toes and may reduce pain from rubbing