Digital Deformities: Hammer and Claw Toe

By Gary N. Friedlander DPM, FACFAS and Jay C. Larson DPM
January 19, 2016
Category: Foot Problems

As we age it may seem like every part of our body begins to change, including our feet. You may even begin to notice your toes changing. In some cases, people develop digital deformities as they age. These toe deformities may include hammer or claw toes.  Although these deformities may seem insignificant and harmless, these toe deformities can have serious consequences in daily activities.

All three deformities of the toe relate to the position of the digit. Many times any deformity of the toe is generically called hammertoes; however, if the toe is flexed at all the joints it would truly be classified as a claw toe. If the joint farthest from the body is extending and the next joint is flexed it would be classified as a hammertoe.

Why do toe deformities happen? These deformities can be associated with biomechanics, nerve damage or even genetics. Biomechanics play a major role. Depending on ones foot structure will determine what type of deformity occurs and whether or not the deformity will be prone to a callus or corn. When nerve damage occurs in the foot, the muscles supporting the foot are weakened causing deformities. Nerve damage can be seen in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or even poorly controlled Diabetes Mellitus. Toe deformities can also occur if there was an injury to certain tendons in the foot. The main issue toe deformities are the development of painful callouses and corns. These corns or callouses may eventually cause ulceration specifically complicating issues in a diabetic the population that hold the risk of infection and potentially amputation.

Luckily, if caught in time, toes deformities can typically be treated non-surgically. Your doctor may put pads on your toes to help off-load areas that are causing pain. Additionally wearing proper fitting shoes will help prevent issues. There is potential if biomechanics are the cause, orthotics may be considered to aid in preventing the progression the digital deformity.  After conservative measures have failed, surgery may be considered. The surgery can correct and straighten the toe to prevent pain, irritation and even ulceration.

Digital deformities are quite common. If hammertoes, claw toes or mallet toes are causing you pain or issues please consider making an appointment with  Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona.

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