WHAT IS HAMMERTOE?
Hammertoe is a contracture (bending) deformity of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth or fifth (little) toes. This abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing problems to develop. Hammertoes usually start out as mild deformities and get progressively worse over time. In the earlier stages, hammertoes are flexible and the symptoms can often be managed with noninvasive measures. But if left untreated, hammertoes can become more rigid and will not respond to nonsurgical treatment.
The most common cause of hammertoe is a muscle/tendon imbalance. Hammertoes may be aggravated by shoes that do not fit properly. A hammertoe may result if a toe is too long and is forced into a cramped position when a tight shoe is worn. Occasionally, hammertoe is the result of an earlier trauma to the toe. In some people, hammertoes are inherited.
There is a variety of treatment options for hammertoe. The treatment your foot and ankle surgeon selects will depend on the severity of your hammertoe and other factors. A number of nonsurgical measures can be undertaken: padding of the toes to avoid corns and calluses, changes in shoes, orthotic devices, and anti-inflammatory oral medication.
In some cases, usually when the hammertoe has become more rigid and painful or when an open sore has developed, surgery is needed. This may involve surgery of the tendons of the toe or the bones in the toe. The toe may also need to be fused. In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity, the number of toes involved, your age, your activity level and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.