While toes are small, and seemingly hidden from view, a toe or toenail problems can be a big inconvenience and quite painful. Toe and toenail problems are not uncommon. Often the result of poor footwear, these conditions can cause pain and difficulty walking or wearing shoes. Learn about different toe and toenail problems, and what treatments are available for these conditions. Fortunately, changing footwear, or a simple insert for your shoes, may be all that is needed to find relief from your symptoms.
1. Turf Toe
Turf toe is a condition of pain at the base of the big toe. Usually the result of athletic activities on a hard surface, turf toe is especially common in athletes who compete on artificial turf. The injury leads to microtears in the capsule of the joint at the base of the big toe. When stress is placed on this joint capsule, pain can occur. Treatment of turf toe is usually helpful, but the condition can return. Furthermore, effective treatment of turf toe can take months to resolve the problem. Turf toe is an especially frustrating problem for competitive athletes as the symptoms are typically not severe, but trying to compete at a high level with this condition can be nearly impossible.
An ingrown toenail is a condition that is caused by abnormal growth of both the toenail and the surrounding tissues. When the toenail grows into the surrounding tissue, a painful toe is the result. The irritation from the toenail causes swelling of the tissues, and further inflammation. Most ingrown toenails improve with simple steps, although more severe cases may require removal of the ingrown part of the nail. Proper trimming of the toenails can help prevent this problem of occurring. When the ingrown toenail becomes more problematic, partial or complete removal of the nail can allow the inflamed tissues to settle down, but care must be taken to ensure the ingrown toenail does not return as soon as the nail grows back.
3. Hammer Toe
A hammer toe occurs when the middle of the toe points upwards abnormally. This most often occurs in the second toe, and is often the result of a big toe bunion pushing on the second toe. A painful callous often forms on top of the first joint in the toe. When a hammer toe occurs, you must ensure that any treatment also addresses the bunion deformity, otherwise, the problem is likely to return. While the hammer toe may be the primary complaint for many patients with a bunion, taking care of both problems is usually the key to successful treatment.
Hallux rigidus occurs when there is arthritis at the base of the big toe. Arthritis of the big toe is the most common type of arthritis in the foot. When arthritis occurs at this joint, pain and swelling are the most common symptoms. Arthritis of the big toe is sometimes confused with gout or a bunion deformity. Simple treatments may consist of footwear modifications or an injection of cortisone. More advanced treatment of hallux rigidus may require surgery to remove bone spurs or to fuse the joint. Typically removal of the bone spur alone (called a chilectomy) will improve mobility of the joint. Therefore if the pain is a result of limited movement, this procedure may be helpful. If the pain is the result of more advanced arthritis of the big toe, then a more extensive surgery may be necessary.
Bunions are a common problem that most people experience as a bony protuberance at the base of the big toe. A bunion, however, is more complicated than simply a bump on the foot. When a patient has a bunion, the big toe angles in towards the other toes, a condition called hallux valgus. Bunions are most common in women, and the cause is almost always due to unsuitable footwear. Surgical treatment of a bunion is a major procedure and usually considered only when simpler footwear modifications are not effective at relieving pain.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin of your feet. The fungus, tinea pedis, is contracted from public environments. The fungus then grows in the warm and moist environment of your footwear, and can be difficult to eradicate. You can help prevent this condition by keeping your feet dry as much as possible, frequently changing and washing socks and footwear, and wearing sandals when using a community shower. Treatment can be effective but when the fungal infection gets under the nail, many common treatments can be challenging to eradicate the fungal infection.
A Morton's neuroma is a benign growth of the nerve sheath of a nerve that courses between the toes. This condition is an abnormal growth, but it is not cancer that can become a dangerous condition. Rather, Morton's neuroma can become a painful nuisance. Most often changes in footwear to relieve compression of the nerve or an injection of cortisone are effective treatments. Rarely is surgery needed to address this condition.