When physicians talk about “hammertoes,” they generally mean a deformity that affects the toes as a whole. Claw fingers are when the fingers take on the shape of a claw, while hammer fingers describe deformities that affect only the distal phalanx.
But what causes this deformity, and how can it be treated? Let’s delve into this topic.
Hammertoes: Causes and Occurrence
Hammertoes rarely occur in isolation and are often associated with conditions like hallux valgus or hallux rigidus. Hallux valgus, characterized by the outward deviation of the big toe, can compress and deform the other toes.
Another contributing factor may be a hollow foot, where muscle imbalances from the forefoot to the hindfoot can cause toe deformities affecting multiple toes.
Rheumatic feet and rheumatoid arthritis can also contribute to the development of claw or hammer toes due to structural changes in the foot and toes.
Symptoms of Hammertoes
The main symptom of hammertoes is pain. The toes may develop calluses that can ulcerate due to friction with shoes.
Patients may have shoe choice limitations, with a preference for soft and wide shoes over heels or narrow-toed shoes.
Causes of Hammertoes
The diagnosis of hammertoes or claw toes is usually clear from the start. A specialist visit is essential to identify the underlying causes and associated pathologies. The proposed therapy aims to solve the problem and prevent recurrence:
- Silicone braces or spacers are commonly used to treat this deformity but may not be suitable for all cases. In some instances, they may worsen the problem, mainly when the pain is in the back rather than the plantar region;
- X-ray imaging of the foot under load is essential for an accurate diagnosis.
Corrective Surgery for Hammertoes
Since hammertoes are often associated with hallux valgus, focusing solely on hammertoes during surgery may not be sufficient. The underlying muscular imbalance induced by altered spaces during walking needs to be addressed.
Neglecting to treat hallux valgus alongside hammertoes can increase the risk of recurrence and lead to less satisfactory results for the surgeon and the patient.
Various techniques are available for correcting hammertoes, selected based on the severity of the deformity and the extent of forefoot involvement. These techniques range from minimally invasive to open procedures.
Postoperative recovery involves wearing a postoperative shoe for four weeks, with immediate weight-bearing allowed.
Please note that it is always essential to consult a healthcare professional.