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Diagnosis: Hammertoe

Some problems benefit from a wait-and-see attitude. At Clifton Foot & Ankle Center, we’re not convinced that’s a great idea when it comes to foot problems. First of all, when you’ve got a problem with your foot, you’re generally in pain. Also, when you wait too long to see a doctor, your problem can become much harder to treat. A hammertoe is one of many foot issues we can think of that will only get worse if you ignore it.

A hammertoe bends upward in the middle, with the toe pointing downward. Hammertoes are usually the result of a muscle or tendon imbalance; that is, something changes in the musculature that causes the toe joint to bend abnormally. You may have a genetic tendency to develop one. Or, a toe injury can cause a hammertoe in the future.

How do you know you’ve got a hammertoe?

At first, you might notice some pain in one of your lesser toes (hammertoes don’t afflict your big toe). Next, a thickened area of skin called a corn may form because the top of your toe is rubbing against your shoes. The affected area may become red and irritated. The toe isn’t as flexible as it should be. Eventually, a hammertoe can become rigid; wearing shoes, walking, and other activities become difficult or impossible.

Treat it before it stiffens

A hammertoe that no longer moves at all will probably need toe surgery. Our podiatrist, Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm, is board certified to perform foot and ankle surgery and is pleased to offer hammertoe straightening to our patients in Fairfax County. Before that becomes your only option, however, take these non-invasive steps:

  • switch to shoes with wider toe boxes
  • treat corns and calluses with over the counter medications or see Dr. Wilhelm
  • ask us about custom orthotic shoe inserts, uniquely fitted to your foot, to relieve pressure
  • keep your toes flexible by performing stretching exercises

Get expert diagnosis and treatment of hammertoes at any stage of development at our podiatry office in Centreville, Virginia. Call us at (703) 996-3000 or schedule an appointment online.

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