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What are Hammer Toes?

A hammer toe is caused when ligament and muscle imbalance cause a toe’s middle joint to bend and get stuck in that position. This condition is uncomfortable because there is irritation and rubbing at the top of the impacted toe. Toes that get curled are also known as hammer toes. Women are more vulnerable to this condition because of their footwear. Hammer toes can seriously affect diabetics or those with poor circulation. Such patients should immediately consult a doctor if they experience any foot trouble.

Causes of Hammer Toes

As mentioned earlier, a hammer toe is formed when toe muscles become imbalanced. This imbalance increases pressure on the toe’s joints and tendons and as a result the toe is molded into the shape of a hammerhead. Three main causes force toe muscles out of balance:

  • The first is genes which can make you vulnerable to developing foot conditions like a flat foot.
  • The second cause is arthritis.
  • Third, badly-fitting shoes that are pointy, short or tight. Such shoes force the toes to become imbalanced and create severe pressure on them.

Treatment and Prevention

The first step is to wear comfortable footwear and ensure your shoes have plenty of space to provide rest to the hammer toes. Such comfortable footwear can also reduce friction against the toes. You can also try conservative treatments such as foot products like hammer toe splints and hammer toe crests. To reduce friction between the affected toe and the shoe you can wear gel toe caps or gel toe shields. These products also provide lubrication and comfort.

When is Surgery Needed?

Sometimes, the hammer toe can become painful and rigid, or an open sore can develop. Such cases need surgery. Corrective surgery can treat related foot deformities and bunion, if the patient develops them along with the hammer toe. Your surgeon will select the best procedure for you after analyzing the deformity, the number of toes impacted, your level of activity and other related factors.

Resources:
1. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-hammertoes-basics
2. http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/hammertoes.htm

To learn about the causes and treatments for hammer toes, please watch this video:

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