What are some of the most common toe ailments?

There are many ailments that can affect your toes, but some of the most common are hammer toe, ingrown toenails, toe fungus, or mallet toes.  Each of these are usually treated fairly easily and with little pain.  However, if they are left untreated the problems can worsen which will require more intense treatment including surgery.  It’s best to see a podiatrist as quickly as possible to figure out the best path for treatment. 

How do ingrown toenails form, and how can they be prevented?

The most common cause of ingrown toenails is improperly trimming the nails.  Toenails should be trimmed straight across, which is critical for healthy feet.  If the edges are trimmed with too much curve, the nail can dig into the skin and lead to painful inflammation and infection.  Other causes of ingrown toenails are tightly fitting shoes, a fungus infection, or sometimes a genetic predisposition to the condition.

What is hammer toe or claw toe?

Hammer toe is where one of the middle three toes have become bent in the middle, crossed, or is pointing in the wrong direction.  Claw toe is where every toe with the exception of the big toe curls down.  The most common cause of hammer toe or claw toe is a result of ill-fitting shoes.  Claw toes can also be caused by nerve damage in the toes.  The first step to correct either of these is to start wearing shoes that fit.  If caught early enough it’s possible that simple shoe inserts can cure the problem.  Since the toes are bent in awkward ways there can be rubbing which can also cause corns or calluses to form.

Is surgery required to repair hammer toe?

If hammer toes are left untreated or don’t respond to less invasive treatments, they can require surgery.  If pain is happening in any of the affected toes and is continuing to become stronger, then surgery could become the best option for fixing them.

What are the most common causes and treatments of toe fungus?

Toe fungus, such as the ubiquitous condition called athlete’s foot, can be nearly impossible to prevent.  It is easily spread, especially in wet areas where people often walk barefoot, such as locker rooms and swimming pools.  People with diabetes or immune deficiency diseases such as HIV are especially vulnerable.  Most fungal infections can be easily treated, but if the condition is ignored, it can spread to other toenails and can even reach fingernails.  When a toe is infected, it will become discolored and can change texture. 

Why should I see a podiatrist if I have a toe condition?

Plain and simple, it’s always best to work with an expert.  A podiatrist is specifically trained and focused on issues in the foot.  This doesn’t mean general practitioners aren’t able or smart enough to help you.  Rather, it just means that they don’t have the time to stay up to date on the latest specialized techniques that affect feet like a podiatrist can.

Interesting Fact:  Due to their exposure, the big toes are most likely to be affected by ingrown toenails.               

Interesting Fact:  The most likely cause of hammer toe is wearing poorly fitting shoes such as excessively high heels or shoes that are too short or narrow for the foot.    

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