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Tackling Toe Deformities

Toe deformities such as bunions, hammertoes, and claw toes are not only unsightly; they can become quite debilitating if left untreated. These conditions are progressive, and although they may happen slowly or quickly, they worsen over time. Why Deformities Happen In most cases, toe deformities have two components: a biomechanical defect such as a muscle/tendon imbalance or other structural problem and poor footwear choices. So, while the tendency for a toe deformity may exist in a patient, wearing shoes that are too small, squeezing the toes together, or forcing them forward, exacerbates the condition and may speed its progression. Treatment Options Too often, patients don’t bring the problem of a toe deformity to the podiatrist until it has reached an advanced stage. By that time, the deformity is severe enough to make it hard to wear shoes and also be very painful. Secondary conditions such as corns and calluses may also have formed, and walking can be difficult. Like most podiatric disorders, toe deformities are best addressed in their earliest stages when the podiatrist has more treatment choices and can work to slow the condition's progression. The foot doctor will examine your toe and foot and may take x-rays or other imaging studies to use as a baseline to monitor the toe over time. The current condition of the toe will determine treatment choices. Some options include: Footwear modifications - properly fitted shoes made of flexible materials with roomy toe boxes will relieve pain and slow down the progression of the deformity. Orthotic devices - these can be employed to change the position of the foot and relieve stress in vulnerable areas. Padding - if corns or calluses have formed, padding may be recommended to prevent friction with footwear and reduce pain. Pain medications - if the toe joint is inflamed, the podiatrist may prescribe oral medication or steroid injections for relief. Ultimately, surgery is the only way to correct a deformed toe permanently. Appropriately managed, however, surgery can be delayed for a time. If you notice one of your toes appears to be moving out of place or bending in an unnatural way, make an appointment to get it evaluated with your podiatrist as soon as possible.

Paul Betschart, DPM Dr. Betschart has over 26 years of experience in treating patients of all ages with all kinds of foot and ankle conditions. His mission is to provide you with helpful information about foot and ankle issues and the latest developments in healthcare.

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