Common big toe problems include arthritis (hallux rigidus), bunions (hallux valgus) and ingrowing toenails. The symptoms you experience depend on the underlying problem but, generally, hallux problems will cause you pain when walking or problems with neighboring toes.
With hallux rigidus there is pain and stiffness when you try to move your toe. The main joint has developed arthritis. You will have difficulties with activities such as walking, bending or squatting. The joint at the base of your big toe may be inflamed and swollen. The symptoms are likely to get worse in wet or cold weather.
If you have hallux valgus your foot may be painful, particularly around the big toe joint. In addition, the big toe will become more angled towards the other toes and will appear to be more prominent. The skin can also become irritated or hard around the affected area. The pain might get worse when you are wearing shoes or simply when walking. You may find that you are getting blisters more easily. A pronounced case of hallux valgus is often associated with hammer toes. If the condition gets worse and the deformity becomes more severe, you may start to experience pain in your foot even when you are not wearing shoes.
Ingrowing toenails may cause inflammation of the skin at the end of the toe. You will feel pain when any pressure is put on the toe, and your toe will become red and swollen. In severe cases your toe may even bleed, and your skin grow over the toe (hypertrophy). You may also have pus drainage coming from the base of your toenail.
Sometimes, ingrown toenails can cure themselves. However, it is common that the condition recurs. When the condition is recurring, a medical doctor should treat it.
A stiff big toe is known as hallux rigidus. This is a type of osteoarthritis. It occurs when the cartilage has been worn away to leave a stiff and inflexible joint. The hallux rigidus is a degenerative, long-term condition. However, it does not only affect older patients. It can be observed in young patients who are active and play sports, and have been injured or had a trauma to the toe joint.
A bunion is an abnormal prominence of the bone and tissue of the big toe joint at the base of the toe. The condition tends to run in families. It can also affect sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis or occur after an injury to the toe. It is not the result of wearing poorly fitting shoes, but ill-fitting footwear for extended periods of time will exacerbate the pain.
Ingrown toenails are observed when your toenail grows inwards and pierces the surrounding skin.
There are a number of possible causes for this condition. In some cases it can be due to cutting your toenail too short. As a result, the skin may start growing over the short nail. Another common cause is poorly fitting shoes that put pressure on the skin around the nail. Trauma to the toe can also develop into an ingrown toenail. In other cases, the natural shape of some patients’ nails can make them more likely to irritate the surrounding skin.
Your specialist will give you advice on how to care for your feet and suggest appropriate footwear to reduce the symptoms and the pain. If the problem is severe, your specialist may suggest surgery.
Toenail problems can usually be remedied with the help of our podiatrist.
The earlier the condition is caught, the easier it is to treat. Depending on the severity of your particular case, the treatment can be non-surgical or surgical.
Non-surgical treatments are recommended for less severe cases of Hallux Rigidus. These may involve anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the swelling and pain. Applying ice can also help ease the swelling. Our doctors may also recommend wearing special shoes or a foot-supporting device to avoid applying pressure to the affected area. In treating this condition, it is recommended to avoid activities with high impact on the feet such as running or playing certain sports.
If the problem is more severe, our specialists may recommend undergoing surgery. This may involve removing spurs of bone to relieve the pain and allow for more joint movement.
Other surgical procedures involve placing new tissue between the joints, or joint fusion to prevent painful movements.
Bunion can be treated with both surgical and non-surgical procedures. The nonsurgical procedures address the symptoms more than they cure the source of the problem. If the condition is mild, the nonsurgical procedure may be enough. However, if the symptoms are too severe, our specialists may recommend surgery.
Non-surgical treatment involves using orthotic devices to support the foot and avoid friction with the shoe or other toes.
The procedure will vary according to the needs of the individual patient, but in general, the goal is to change the deformed shape of the toe and bring back to its original shape. Success rates are very high, but the recovery is always lengthy and the foot remains swollen for many weeks.
Ingrowing toenails can easily result in infections. The nonsurgical treatment of ingrown toenails involves cutting the nail where it pierces the skin, as well as regularly disinfecting the wound until the nail grows back. If the condition does not improve, surgery may be needed to remove the nail either partially or completely.