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Orthopaedics, Patient information
15th January 2021  •  Read 0 times

Lesser toe deformities

What are lesser toe deformities?

Claw, mallet, hammer……not just DIY tools, in the medical world these terms are used to describe toe deformities. Toe deformities come in different shapes and are therefore coined according to where the deformity comes from. The terms ‘claw’, ‘mallet’, and ‘hammer’ are purely descriptive of the deformity of the toe.

What causes these deformities?

There are many different reasons why a toe will become deformed. It may be due to trauma or a previous toe fracture, arthritisis also a common cause.  Sometimes there is an imbalance of the muscles pulling on the toe, or it can be due to other conditions in the foot, such as a bunion. Some general medical conditions, such as nerve conditions, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis can also cause toe deformities. It is important to appreciate the underlying cause in order to treat them successfully.

What are the symptoms?

Some deformities of the toe do not cause any troubling symptoms and are therefore only a cosmetic issue. However, some deformities are severe enough to cause pain. The toe can rub on footwear and cause corns and callouses which are painful. In severe cases, ulcers can form which can result in repeated infections in the toe. There may also be other areas of pain felt in the foot which is linked to the toe deformity. It is therefore important to look for any other problems in the foot and treat any other underlying causes of the toe deformity. Most deformities are flexible, in which the toe deformity can be manually straightened. As time progresses, these deformities may become fixed and the toes may not be able to be straightened manually.

What are the treatment options?

Not all deformed toes require surgery. Many deformed toes may not cause much pain, or can be managed without surgery.

The first thing to do is alter your footwear and try painkillers. Wider fitting shoes with soft materials create more space for your toes. Trainers with mesh tops/materials are very helpful in relieving pressure on the toes. Calluses (hard skin) on or under the toes can be trimmed. Soft corn pads may help relieve pain from prominent pressure areas. Straps and splints may be able to straighten and pad the toes to prevent pain and rubbing.

When the non-operative options have failed and the toe continues to be painful or causes painful calluses or ulcers, then surgery may be required to straighten the toe. These procedures can be carried out under local anaesthetic and as a day case procedure (coming in and going home on the same day after surgery).

To book an appointment to see Mr Ieong, or one of our other highly experienced Orthopaedic surgeons, simply complete the contact form here or call 01442 331 900.

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About the author
Mr Edmund Ieong

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr. Ieong is a consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon with specialist training in foot and ankle surgery.

Mr. Ieong qualified from Imperial College London medical school in 2007. He undertook his specialist orthopaedic training in London in the North West Thames London Deanery. He has had a broad exposure to foot and ankle pathologies and trauma. During his training, he has worked at St. Mary’s Major trauma centre and spent a year working with the foot and ankle department at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital where he gained experience in managing complex foot and ankle pathologies and reconstruction. He subsequently undertook a specialist foot and ankle fellowship at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, covering deformity corrections and arthritic conditions. This was followed by a foot and ankle fellowship at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, with further experience in complex foot and ankle trauma, and diabetic foot conditions. Mr. Ieong was appointed as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon to West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust in 2019.

Mr. Ieong maintains an active involvement in teaching surgical trainees. He is a member of the British Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society and keeps up to date by regularly attending conferences and educational courses. He has published his research in peer reviewed journals and has presented his work at a national and international level. He was awarded a place on the BOA leadership programme and has developed quality improvement projects in patient education and promoting a patient centred approach to management.


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