The human foot consists of bones and soft tissues that support the weight of your body, Your toes play two very specific roles: they provide balance (especially the big toe) and they help to propel you forward when you walk or run. Painful toes may be the result of injury, disease, poorly fitted shoes or ageing. As you get older, it’s even more important to pay more attention to the health of your toes.
A hammer or mallet toe is a type of deformity in which your toe bends or curls downwards. It occurs when the muscles, tendons or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight, become imbalanced. While it can affect any toe on your foot, it most occurs on the second or third toe
Ingrown toenails most commonly affect the big (great) toe. They’re caused by the constant pressure from the nail-edge into the skin of the toe. Prevention is definitely the best approach, though there are preventative steps you can take, as well as surgical and non-surgical treatments.
Claw feet or claw toes is a condition in which your toes bend or curl into a claw-like position. It’s often seen on people with high foot arches. Claw foot may be present from birth, or your feet can become bent later on. It’s usually not a serious problem on its own, but it can be uncomfortable.
What is an Ingrown Toenail?
Ingrown toenails are caused by pressure from the inward growth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. Initial minor discomfort may lead to inflammation and infection if the edge of the nail breaks through the skin. This can become a recurring problem.
The large toes are most commonly affected, but any toe can become ingrown. Signs and symptoms include redness, pain and swelling. A clear, yellowish liquid may also drain from the infected area. If the toe is infected, this will become a pus discharge.
How to prevent Ingrown Toenails
The most common cause of ingrown toenails is incorrect trimming. Trauma, such as stubbing the toe or having it stepped on can also cause a piece of nail to jam into the skin.
To prevent ingrown toenails from occurring you should:
- Properly trim toenails: cut toenails in a fairly straight line, but don’t cut them too short. You should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the nail.
- Wear well-fitted shoes and socks: don’t wear shoes that are short or tight in the toe area. Also avoid shoes that are loose, because they can cause pressure on the toes, especially when running or walking briskly.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
For mild cases or if the ingrown toenail has no infection, you can soak your foot in room temperature water (adding Epsom’s salt may be recommended by your GP). Gently massage the side of the nail fold to help reduce the inflammation.
Avoid “bathroom surgery”. Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time. If your symptoms do not improve it is time for you to see a foot and ankle surgeon.
When will surgery be needed?
The need for surgery depends on the severity of the ingrown toenail. Occasionally, ingrown toenails will resolve themselves. However, if you experience pain and the symptoms are persistent and recurring, you should see a podiatrist or orthopaedic surgeon.
WHAT IS HAMMER TOE?
Normally, your toes point forward. A hammer toe is a type of deformity in which your toe bends or curls downwards. While it can affect any toe on your foot, it most occurs on the second or third toe. Hammer toe may be present at birth, but it’s more usual that it develops over time, typically due to arthritis or wearing poorly-fitted shoes. Hammer toes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joint.
Flexible Hammer Toe
It’s possible to straighten a flexible hammer manually as there is still some movement in the toe joint.
Rigid Hammer Toe
A rigid hammer toe is more difficult to treat. Movement is often very limited and painful. Sufferers may compensate for this by placing extra stress on the ball of their foot, which in turn, can lead to the development of corns and calluses.
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Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.