A Hammer toe
is a deformity of the second, third or
fourth toes. In this condition, the toe is bent at the middle joint, so that it resembles a hammer. Initially, hammer toes are flexible and can be corrected with simple measures but, if left
untreated, they can become fixed and require surgery. People with hammer toe may have corns or calluses on the top of the middle joint of the toe or on the tip of the toe. They may also feel pain in
their toes or feet and have difficulty finding comfortable shoes.
Most hammertoes are caused by wearing ill-fitting, tight or high-heeled shoes over a long period of time. Shoes that don't fit well can crowd the toes, putting pressure on the middle toes and causing
them to curl downward. The condition may be more likely when the second toe is longer than the first toe or when the arch of the foot is flat. Hammertoe can also be present at birth (congenital).
Hammertoe also can be caused by a bunion, which is the knobby bump that sometimes develops at the side of the big toe. A bunion causes the big toe to bend toward the other toes. The big toe can then
overlap and crowd the smaller toes. Occasionally, a hammertoe is inherited or caused by arthritis in the toe joint.
Signs and symptoms of hammertoe and mallet toe may include a hammer-like or claw-like appearance of a toe. In mallet toe, a deformity at the end of the toe, giving the toe a mallet-like appearance.
Pain and difficulty moving the toe. Corns and calluses resulting from the toe rubbing against the inside of your footwear. Both hammertoe and mallet toe can cause pain with walking and other foot
Although hammertoes are readily apparent, to arrive at a diagnosis the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. During the physical examination,
the doctor may attempt to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot and will study the contractures of the toes. In addition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the
degree of the deformities and assess any changes that may have occurred.
Non Surgical Treatment
Apply a commercial, nonmedicated hammertoe pad around the bony prominence of the hammertoe. This will decrease pressure on the area. Wear a shoe with a deep toe box. If the hammertoe becomes inflamed
and painful, apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling. Avoid heels more than two inches tall. A loose-fitting pair of shoes can also help protect the foot while reducing pressure on the
affected toe, making walking a little easier until a visit hammertoe
to your podiatrist can be arranged. It is important to remember
that, while this treatment will make the hammertoe feel better, it does not cure the condition. A trip to the podiatric physician?s office will be necessary to repair the toe to allow for normal foot
function. Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, as their feet can often outgrow their shoes rapidly. See your
podiatric physician if pain persists.
Sometimes, if the deformity is severe enough or surgical modification is needed, the toe bones may be fused so that the toe does not bend. Buried wires are used to allow for the fusion to heal, and
they remain in place after healing. Your skin is closed with fine sutures, which are typically removed seven to ten days after surgery. A dressing is used to help keep your toes in their new
position. Dressings should not get wet or be removed. After surgery, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers, typically for the initial four to seven days. Most people heal completely within one
month of surgery, with few complications, if any. Crutches or a cane may be needed to help you keep weight off your affected foot, depending on the procedure. Occasionally, patients receive a special
post-op shoe or a walking boot that is to be worn during the healing process. Most people are able to shower normally after surgery, but must protect the dressing from getting wet. Many patients are
allowed to resume driving within one week after the procedure, but care needs to be taken.