Glomus Tumors

By Gary N. Friedlander DPM, FACFAS and Jay C. Larson DPM
April 16, 2018
Category: Foot Problems

When determining the cause of pain in our toes, it can be difficult to figure out the source; this is often due to misdiagnosed outgrowths on bones or tissue in the toes. An example of such a condition are glomus tumors, which are often associated with throbbing pain of the toes, and fingers.

What is a Glomus Tumor?

A glomus tumor is a benign growth that arises from the glomus body of our fingers and toes. The glomus body is found in the dermis of the skin and plays a role with regulating temperature through changes in blood flow through the digits. Glomus tumors can occur anywhere in the skin, but are commonly found in the digits, especially underneath the nails.

How Do I Know if it is a Glomus Tumor?

Often, a long history of pain and tenderness are reported by patients with glomus tumors, and describe it as being excruciating, and intermittent. Another complaint given by patients is sensitivity to temperature, especially colder temperatures, but it is not always a consistent finding. Part of what makes diagnosing glomus tumors difficult is due to how rare they are when compared to other foot conditions affecting the toes (neuromas, ingrown nails, spurs, etc.). When a physical exam is performed, sometimes tenderness, and thickening is present in the tissues of the toes, as well as a detectable mass underneath the nail. If the glomus tumor is superficial, it might be seen as a reddish/blue nodule underneath the nail or skin, and be affiliated with a nail growth deformity as well.

There are a couple of simple routine tests to help determine if a glomus tumor is causing the pain in the toes: Love test and Hildreth test. The Love test is performed by taking a small, sharp object such as a paperclip, pencil, or toothpick and using it to recreate the pain felt in the toes. The Hildreth test is performed by elevating the affected limb and applying a blood pressure cuff or tourniquet to the ankle. After the tourniquet is applied, the podiatrist will palpate the area where pain was felt, and see if the pain persists once the tourniquet is released.

Are Glomus Tumors Treatable?

Yes. Surgical removal of the glomus tumor has proven to be the most definitive treatment and patients often experience relief of their painful symptoms. Depending on the severity of the glomus tumor and if nail deformities are present, a total nail avulsion may be required in order to remove the glomus tumor.

If you have been experiencing excruciating pain in your toes and have yet to find relief, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gary N. Friedlander or Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona, and have your treatment options presented to you to ensure you continue to maintain healthy feet.

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