Hammertoe can be a very painful condition that causes difficulty in wearing shoes as well as difficulty walking in general. If you notice one or more of your toes bending at the middle joint and curling downwards, you might be suffering from this condition. The middle joint will be pushed upwards in the affected toes. Along with the pain in the muscles and joint, you will probably also be developing raw patches on the parts of the skin that come into contact with your shoe.
It’s important to contact your physician as soon as possible if you suspect that you have hammertoe. If left untreated, the deformity can progress to the point where the joint becomes completely rigid and the only way to fix it with surgery. To properly diagnose and treat hammertoe, it may be necessary to take an x-ray of the affected area. This will let your physician see how advanced the problem is and make a decision as to the ideal course of treatment.
For milder cases, especially those in which the joint is still relatively mobile, physical therapy is often an option for treatment. However, more severe cases may necessitate surgery. If you can’t move the toe joint at all, it is likely that it falls into the latter category.
Types of hammertoe surgery include arthrodesis and arthroplasty, two procedures that alter the bones in the affected toe in order to keep it straight and relieve the pain. Arthrodesis involves grafting a piece of bone onto the joint to fuse it in place, whereas in arthroplasty, a portion of the bone is removed to make the joint more mobile. Some types of joint reconstruction can also include placement of a temporary or permanent wire to stabilize the toe. In cases where the wire is temporary, a portion of the wire will extend from the toe while it is in place to allow it to be taken out later. This can cause some complications such as infection and the possibility of the wire begin moved out of place if the tip of the toe is bumped against something. A permanent toe-straightening implant can reduce the risk of infection and displacement, as well as make the second appointment for removal unnecessary.
Although surgery can cause a person some anxiety on top of being an expensive investment, it is important to treat a serious case of hammertoe as soon as possible. Severe cases can be especially problematic in people with conditions that impact circulation, such as diabetes. Since the deformation causes the toe to curl in an unnatural manner, blood supply to the toe is more likely to be insufficient and it may progress to the point where amputation is necessary.