What is a hammertoe?
A hammertoe is a name given to contracted, curly toe that have the shape of a hammer. These deformities can become quite uncomfortable and cosmetically unappealing.
A hammertoe generally develops in one or two locations on a toe. It can be located at the toe joint closest to the body of the foot, or at the joint closest to the toenail. Sometimes the hammertoe that forms at the joint closest to the toenail is called a "mallet toe". The treatment for a hammertoe at either of these locations is the same.
How do I get hammertoes?
Individuals get "hammering of digits" mainly due to biomechanical abnormalities during walking. Although there is an increase in occurrence with those who have flat feet, contracted toes can show up in all types of feet. Poor shoes and genetics can play a role in contributing to the development of these deformities.
How do I know if I have a hammertoe?
An early sign may be that you have more difficulty or pain wearing your shoes. The longer you have a hammertoe, the more rigid and contracted the deformity can become. Most people realize they have a problem once they develop painful calluses or blisters on the top of their toes. In severe cases an ulceration and infection can develop with hammertoes. Other signs of hammertoes include painful calluses under the balls of the feet, cramping, and weakness.
How do I get rid of my hammertoes?
Most people start treating themselves because they have a painful corn on top of the toe. They try corn pads, corn removers, cushioning pads, pedicures, etc. The problem however, is a structural deformity within the toe, and thus these treatments will only temporarily affect the skin. The source of the problem is the contracture of the bone within the toe. The use of larger shoes may initially help this problem, but they will not change the underlying bone structure problem. In these drawings, the toe on the left shows contracture of the toe bones, with an overlying corn (or hyperkeratosis). The toe on the right shows a corrected hammertoe, with straight toe bones, and no overlying corn. Some milder forms of hammertoes can be improved with the use of orthotics. The most effective treatment option, however, is surgical correction.
What is the surgery like?
The procedure can be done in the office or in an outpatient operating room using local anesthetic. The surgery takes less than 30 minutes. Through a small incision, the bone deformity is reduced and the tendons are rebalanced around the contracted joint. About four sutures are used. The patient goes home wearing a special post-operative shoe and can walk immediately.
Is surgery for me?
If you are tired of not fitting comfortably in your shoes, get no relief from pads, and have corns that are sensitive and painful, then you may be a surgical candidate.
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