Hammer toe is a condition which causes a toe to flex downward instead of pointing forward. This might cause cosmetic concerns, but it can also result in severe pain. While hammer toes are sometimes present without symptoms, there is also a risk of infection if they are left untreated.
Luckily, hammer toe is not a permanent condition. Dr. Yeargain is highly experienced in treating patients for hammer toe, getting them back to comfortably and confidently doing what they love as soon as possible.
- What is the most common cause of hammer toe?
- What are its signs?
- Which types of patients are most at risk of developing hammer toes?
- Does it typically affect more than one toe at a time?
- How is this treated?
- Why should I visit a specialist for its treatment?
- Will I need surgery for this?
- What does its surgery involve?
- Can complications occur if it is left untreated?
- Are there any preventive measure I can take against hammer toe?
- Will my insurance cover its treatment?
Common Questions about Hammer Toe
What is the most common cause of hammer toe?
Hammer toe can occur because of an imbalance between the muscles and the tendons on the top and bottom of the toe, which causes the toe to flex downward more than it should. Patients who develop hammer toe are typically genetically predisposed to the condition. However, it can also be exacerbated by other conditions such as arthritis, a traumatic injury, or shoes which don’t fit properly.
What are the signs of hammer toe?
When there is a muscle imbalance in the toe, the bone will become more prominent as the joint arches. A lot of times, this will rub uncomfortably on your shoe, and a callus may form. Often, the pain associated with hammer toe deformities is because of this callus.
If you have a toe or toes which bend downward, seem claw-like, develop painful calluses, or are unable to flex or wiggle, call the Yeargain Foot & Ankle office. Dr. Yeargain will do a full assessment and help come up with a treatment plan to relieve you of any symptoms and prevent further damage from occurring.
Which types of patients are most at risk of developing hammer toes?
Hammer toe affects a very broad range of patients, from pediatric to geriatric. Most commonly, Dr. Yeargain sees patients between 30 and 50 years old with hammer toes. The condition will occur in varying degrees—sometimes patients will have hammer toe for a while without pain, and others will experience severe pain.
Does hammer toe typically affect more than one toe at a time?
This will depend on the cause of the hammer toe. If it was caused by a traumatic event like a broken bone, then an isolated toe might heal in poor alignment, resulting in hammer toe. If the cause is a muscle imbalance, multiple hammer toes may develop on the foot.
At your consultation, Dr. Yeargain will do a full analysis to best determine the root cause of your hammer toe in order to provide the most efficient solution to relieve your pain, as well as prevent the condition from returning.
How is hammer toe treated?
When you visit Dr. Yeargain’s office for hammer toe, he will first do an x-ray on the affected area in order to analyze the alignment of the bone structure. As with his treatment of all conditions, Dr. Yeargain will try simple, nonsurgical options to relieve symptoms before considering more invasive solutions. For hammer toe, this will include pads, cushions, and support to help realign the affected toe or toes—all of which are available in the Yeargain Foot & Ankle online store.
The pain associated with hammer toe is often caused by a callus formation that occurs from the bony prominence rubbing on the shoe. Dr. Yeargain will address this callus and any other kind of skin irritation at this initial visit, then he will take a look at the underlying cause or causes of the hammer toe, which may include a genetic component as well as some muscle imbalance or shoe irritation.
Why should I visit a specialist for hammer toe treatment?
It’s important to see a specialist such as Dr. Yeargain for deformities and conditions of the foot because, with years of experience in the field treating a wide variety of conditions, he will be able to see the whole patient picture. Rather than only fixing the immediate symptoms, a podiatrist is able to determine which underlying causes are creating this condition and correct them, prevent it from recurring, and prevent other toes from being affected by the same condition.
Will I need surgery for hammer toe?
Dr. Yeargain will always explore noninvasive treatment options before looking to a surgical solution. However, if a patient with hammer toe has exhausted all the other options and is still unsatisfied with the appearance of hammer toe—or is still experiencing pain from it—then Dr. Yeargain will discuss surgical options. About 10 percent of hammer toe patients will go forward with a surgical solution.
What does hammer toe surgery involve?
The procedure is a quick day surgery done at an outpatient surgery center. During the procedure, the surgeon will open the joint with a small incision and remove a small amount of cartilage on either side of the joint, which allows the toe to straighten. Typically, an absorbable pin will be placed to hold the toe straight, fusing it into this straight position so it won’t be flexed at the joint anymore. This reduces the bony prominence, which then allows calluses or skin irritations associated with the condition to heal.
Like with any bone surgery, the bone will take about four to six weeks to heal after the procedure. Dr. Yeargain will typically instruct patients to stay off their feet anywhere between one and four weeks, and they will be in a protective shoe or boot for an additional couple weeks, as well.
Can complications occur if hammer toe is left untreated?
Occasionally, a skin irritation that’s overlying the bony prominence of the hammer toe can become a blister or an ulcer—this is an infection risk. If there is a pre-existing condition such as diabetes of neuropathy, a patient might be even more susceptible to these infections.
Dr. Yeagain strongly advises patients who notice a redness or skin swelling on the toe to contact Yeargain Foot & Ankle immediately. This type of irritation can lead to more serious medical conditions that could be avoided if treated early.
Are there any preventive measure I can take against hammer toe?
Wearing shoes which fit properly is very important, especially if you are genetically predisposed to developing hammer toe. Avoid shoes which are too tight, constricting, or pointed.
If you start to notice the early signs of hammer toe development, such as a crooked toe or a painful prominence, it’s best to see an expert sooner rather than later so you can prevent it from getting worse. Dr. Yeargain will be able to show you simple stretching exercises and set you up with shoe inserts or hammer toe cushions to help prevent the condition from worsening. For patients’ convenience, Yeargain Foot & Ankle has an online store with hammer toe treatment materials, so you won’t need to run around town looking for what you need.
Will my insurance cover hammer toe treatment?
Yes. Hammer toe is a joint deformity, and treatment for the condition is covered by major insurance companies. At your initial hammer toe consultation appointment, we will walk you through every question or concern you may have on the insurance coverage of this treatment.