Hammertoes is one of many common foot ailments that podiatrists are trained to diagnose and treat. Dr. Gerald Paul, your podiatrist in Bloomington, IL, sees many patients seeking relief from their hammertoes at McLean County Foot and Ankle, and he's outlined some details about the condition here.
What are hammertoes?
When the middle joint of one or more of the toes - most commonly the three in the middle - protrudes upwards, it gives the appearance of an inverted "V" when viewed from the side. This also resembles the head of a hammer, hence the name. Hammertoes occur when the ligaments controlling that middle joint and the one closest to the tip of your toes are constantly contracted. While many people with hammertoes only notice the cosmetic changes in their feet, others develop painful side effects like calluses, joint inflammation, or difficulty walking.
Who is at risk for hammertoes?
Hammertoes can be caused by a variety of conditions and situations. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, including the toes. Many people have muscular abnormalities in the feet, ankles and lower legs that contribute to the imbalances in their ligaments. These problems may be genetic, but they may also be a result of previous injuries or diabetes that change the way a person walks, stands, and balances. While it's unclear whether footwear actually causes hammertoes to develop, tight-fitting shoes like high heels can definitely exacerbate the condition. A thorough examination and discussion with your Bloomington podiatrist will help determine the reason for your hammertoes.
How are hammertoes managed?
If hammertoes are caught early enough, your Bloomington podiatrist may be able to recommend appliances and exercises that gently and gradually straighten them out. However, most people do not seek the help of a foot doctor until their hammertoes have been present for a long time. In cases such as these, custom-made orthotics, devices that are worn inside the shoes, may help to even out the imbalances that led to the development of the hammertoes and relieve the pressure on them. Surgery is also an option, but typically considered a "last resort" after other methods have failed to bring relief.
If you have hammertoes, or any other foot-related condition, contact McLean County Foot and Ankle in Bloomington, IL, to schedule a consultation with Dr. Gerald Paul today!