Just as newborns can be born with extra fingers or toes, they can be born with toes appearing webbed, or fused; when this happens, it is known as syndactyly. Syndactyly simply means “fingers or toes together” and a child can be born with it, or acquire it in an injury. During pregnancy, when a child’s arms and legs begin to form, they initially look like little paddles. During weeks 6th-8th of pregnancy, the fingers and toes start to appear separately, and eventually are divided into individual fingers, and toes. Syndactyly occurs when the tissue between the toes and/or fingers do not separate completely, result in the webbed appearance. Syndactyly can also be acquired at any age due to burn injuries.
Types of Syndactyly
The appearance of syndactyly can be varied and classified accordingly. The following is a commonly used classification system:
- Incomplete – The webbing does not extend the ends of the toes - This is the most commonly seen form and typically appears between the 2nd and 3rd toes
- Complete – The webbing extends to the ends of the toes
- Simple – Only soft tissue connects the toes or fingers
- Fenestrated – There is skin inbetween the toes, but there is a gap between the webbing, and the start of the toes
- Complicated – The bones in the toes are involved and are fused or abnormal in their size, shape, number, and arrangement
- Complicated-Complex – There are 3 or more toes with interrupted, incomplete structures
How Will This Affect My Child or Myself?
This condition occurs in approximately 1 in 2000 births. Often, babies born with syndactyly do not have any major health problems, but the syndactyly can occur with other foot conditions such as polydactyly (extra toes or fingers). If the syndactyly only affects the toes, treatment is not usually necessary since it does not drastically alter the function of the foot. If the parent or guardian desires treatment for their child, surgery can be done to separate the toes, and restore any lost function. Surgery is typically performed when the child is younger to decrease the risk of issues that might occur as the child continues to grow.
If your child was born with webbed toes or you know someone who has syndactyly, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona, and have all your treatment options presented to you and learn more about your child’s condition to ensure you and your child continue to maintain healthy feet.