As we age, our joints can become more prominent and difficult to move. However, deformed joints in your feet can restrict mobility and alter your entire lifestyle. That's why the podiatrists of Family Foot & Ankle Associates of Maryland want to treat patients with joint problems as soon as possible. If you've noticed your toes beginning to curl or bend at an odd angle, you may be dealing with hammertoes. Below, our podiatrists have answered questions they frequently hear from the patients they see in Silver Spring, Clinton, Kensington and Olney, MD.
What are hammertoes?
When the muscles surrounding the toe joints become weakened, the toes can become bent out of alignment. If the middle toe joint is affected, the deformity that results causes the toes to take on the shape of a hammer or upside-down V. Hammertoes can either be flexible, which is a milder form of the condition, or rigid, meaning the joint can no longer be moved.
What causes hammertoes?
An imbalance of the muscle activity around the three toe joints is what causes the development of hammertoes, but there are various reasons why this imbalance happens. Women that frequently wear high-heeled shoes are at particular risk for hammertoes due to the narrow, constricting toe boxes associated with this type of footwear. Arthritis, the degeneration and inflammation of joints throughout the body, can also cause hammertoes. Your family history of joint issues may play a part as well. A thorough examination from your Silver Spring, Clinton, Kensington and Olney podiatrist will identify the source of your hammertoes.
What are the complications associated with hammertoes?
Because most regular shoes aren't made to accommodate deformed joints, people visit their podiatrist with complaints of calluses, corns or painful blisters forming from constant friction against their hammertoes. People with diabetes have the added issue of poor circulation, which makes healing difficult and turns these uncomfortable problems into potentially dangerous infections without prompt treatment.
How are hammertoes treated?
Mild hammertoes can be cushioned with special pads that are worn on top of them. Your podiatrist may also teach you stretching exercises to do at home that will help loosen the joint. Wearing properly fitted footwear also helps give the toes the room they need. Severe hammertoes that cannot be moved and cause chronic pain may only resolve with surgery to reposition the joints.
To schedule an appointment, contact Family Foot and Ankle Associates at one of our convenient Maryland locations - Silver Spring, Clinton, Kensington and Olney - today!