Preventing Hammertoes


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Seven million people in the U.S. have experienced a hammertoe, where the second, third, or fourth toe becomes bent at the middle joint. It causes pain in toes and feet and makes it almost impossible to find comfortable shoes. There are some steps people can take to reduce their risk for a hammertoe.

Certain medical conditions, those fashionable shoes, and even your genes … no, not the ones you wear, but the ones your parents gave you can increase your risk for this: an uncomfortable, unsightly hammertoe.

“The two things that can make hammertoe worse is genetics, which obviously the patient can’t control. The other is shoe gear,” explained podiatrist Jessica Sciulli, DPM.

But did you know, the time of day you buy new shoes can lower your risk? Feet tend to swell a little bit, so buying shoes at the end of the day will give you a better sense of fit. Also, take care of any calluses, corns, blisters, and bunions.

“A lot of times actually the bunion is what contributes to the hammertoes getting worse,” continued Dr. Sciulli.

Consult your doctor for the right course of treatment to handle these conditions before they worsen. Just like with any muscle, exercising can make your toes flexible and strong. Try extending and curling your toes and even play a game of marble pickup. Make sure to promote good blood circulation by elevating your feet regularly. And treat yourself to warm foot baths and massages, to keep your toes in tip-top shape.

Interestingly, most people have one foot that is bigger than the other. You want to get shoes that fit the bigger foot.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer. 

REPORT #2766


BACKGROUND: Hammertoe is a deformity of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth or little toes. When wearing shoes, an abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe, causing problems to develop. Hammertoes usually start out very mild and get progressively worse over time. In the earlier stages, hammertoes are flexible, and the symptoms can often be managed with noninvasive measures. However, if left untreated, hammertoes can become stiffer and will not respond to nonsurgical treatment. Shoes that are too small, too tight, or just do not fit properly can aggravate hammertoes. Occasionally, hammertoe is the result of an earlier trauma to the toe, and in some people, hammertoes are inherited.


SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT: Some common symptoms of hammertoes include pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes; corns and calluses on the toe; inflammation, redness or a burning sensation; contracture of the toe; and in more severe cases, open sores. The treatment your foot and ankle surgeon select will depend on the severity of your hammertoe and some other factors. A surgeon can provide or prescribe pads designed to shield corns from irritation. Try to avoid shoes with pointed toes, shoes that are too short, or shoes with high heels, all that force your toe against the front of the shoe. A custom orthotic device placed in your shoe can sometimes help control the muscle/tendon imbalance. Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to ease pain and inflammation. Finally, oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation, along with splinting or strapping.


WHEN IT COMES TO SURGERY: The only time surgery is an absolute necessity is if your bunion or hammertoe becomes infected or involves a more troublesome complication. In order to correct the problem, you need someone who understands that they need to correct the bony deformity, and also the forces that caused the deformation. This process is a complicated one that very few surgeons understand. After surgery, a dressing is placed on the toe and you are given a post-operative shoe, which is a hard-soled shoe. The next day, you can walk on the heel and the outside of the foot, but it is recommended that you avoid putting weight on the part that was operated on for about three to four weeks. You may also have pins sticking out of the end of your toes that will need to be cleaned. Crutches may be provided for additional support to help you avoid putting weight on the part that was operated on. After four weeks, you can start walking more flat-footed and independently off of the crutches. Any pins will be removed at that time. Then at about six to eight weeks, you can wear shoes.


* For More Information, Contact:

Rick Pietzak, Senior Manager, PR/UPMC

(412) 864-4151


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