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The Condition

The term ‘hammertoe’ is generally used to describe digital deformities of the foot. The deformities can vary in location, type and severity. Abnormal positioning of the toe joint(s) result in a crooked alignment of the digit, which can lead to pain and discomfort with shoe wear and activity. As the deformity progresses, the digit becomes more rigid and arthritic. Corns and calluses can accompany this condition due to increased irritation of the skin overlying the affected joints. In severe cases, open wounds can actually form over these bone prominences. This increases the risk for infection and other complications.

The Treatment

Treatment of hammertoes can include both surgical and conservative care options. Conservative care is primarily used to reduce pressure at the painful areas along the digit. This method of treatment does not correct the underlying problem. Surgical intervention to realign the digit is required for a more permanent solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. There are many different types of digital deformities. The term ‘hammertoe’ is commonly used to describe the majority of them. There are specific names, however, that are associated with certain deformities.
Hammertoe, mallet toe, claw toe, curly toe (clinodactyly) webbed toes, rotated toe (adductovarus).
Patients often find that wider shoes can help to reduce pressure at the forefoot. This can relieve the irritation experienced at the areas of bone prominece. Other ways to reduce the pressure may include the use of pads and splints to cushion and temporarily straighten the digital deformities. Medications can also be used to temporarily reduce symptoms. It should be noted that these deformities are progressive and will not resolve without surgical treatment.
The answer to this question is complex. Digital deformities are caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Wearing poorly fitted shoes can often cause digital deformities to develop at an accelerated rate. It is recommended that patients wear proper fitting shoes that do not crowd the digits. Custom made orthotics can also be beneficial in stabilizing the foot and slowing the progression of deformities.
Symptoms of pain and other complications associated with digital deformities typically dictate the timing in which patients seek surgical treatment.
Surgical options vary depending upon the type of digital deformity present. Procedures are selected based upon patient age, activity level and overall health. Minor surgical procedures are utilized to remodel and reduce the bone architecture of the affected digits. In some cases, small implants may be placed to maintain the properly reduced position.