Posts for tag: toes
If the temperatures outside are keeping you indoors this time of year, you’re not alone. I hate the cold. For the brave souls who like to venture out into the snowy weather, a few words of caution. Your toes need to be protected! Proper footwear is always a must because frostbite and chilblains are common foot injuries brought on by the cold. As usual, they are easy to avoid if we understand how they happen and what to do about it.
Many people will know frostbite, but there is a milder form of cold injury called frostnip. Just because it’s milder, doesn’t mean it still isn't uncomfortable and bad for your feet. It generally begins in the toes. The skin will turn white or flush red and feel extremely cold to the touch. In a short time, this can lead to numbness or a feeling of pins and needles. Without rewarming, frostnip will lead to frostbite. Think of it as an early warning sign and get yourself indoors where your feet can get care. Soak your feet in water, but bring the temperature up very gradually. Don’t start with hot water; you probably can’t feel if it’s too hot and scalding your feet.
READ MORE: Winter Boot Buying Guide
In the cold, the blood vessels nearest the skin narrow, diverting blood to the core of the body to protect the vital organs. Unfortunately, this leaves fingers, toes, and nose tips left out in the cold. Literally. Since your body is no longer trying to warm those areas, they have no defense against cold injuries. If you leave them exposed, frostbite will slowly freeze the skin and tissue underneath. In severe cases, tissue will die and need to be surgically removed. If you think you are developing frostbite, seek medical treatment immediately.
Most people know what frostnip and frostbite are and how to avoid them, but there is another type of cold injury that can occur even when it's not below freezing. Chilblains is a condition in which the feet react to cold with inflammation. This causes red patches, itching, swelling, and can be accompanied by painful blisters, called pernio. Just like nail fungus likes to grow in warm and moist socks, chilblains like to form in cold and damp socks. Frostbite can onset quickly due to freezing temperatures, but chilblains occur from long exposure to mild cold and humidity. You may not even feel it happening, but long term damage is being done to your blood vessels. Symptoms can stick around for a while without proper treatment, so get yourself to a podiatrist asap.
To prevent any cold injury there are some basic steps to follow. Keep your feet warm at all times. When going outside, wear warm socks that pull moisture away from the skin (wool is a good choice). If you don’t have a lot of body fat to keep you warm, add an extra layer of socks. Same thing if you have excessively sweaty feet. Avoid rapid temperature changes if your feet do get too cold. Never warm up your feet if there is a chance of them refreezing before reaching proper medical care.
READ MORE: Keep Your Feet Warm
It’s strange that after all these years of blogging, we haven’t focused on one of the most common foot illnesses: hammertoes. When I say hammertoe, pictures of burly men hopping about and cursing after hitting themselves with a hammer comes to mind, but a hammertoe has nothing to do with hammers at all – except for the shape. A hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the middle joint of…you guessed it, your toes.
The characteristic “hammer” shape of the bent toe, usually the second, third, or fourth toe, can identify this condition. There is also a variation of this deformity called a mallet toe, which is a bend in the first joint of the toe (closest to the toenail). Essentially it looks like you have curled up a toe or two permanently. And unfortunately, unless the cause is remedied, it won’t uncurl. There are three main causes of hammertoes: the wrong shoes, sudden trauma, or a muscle imbalance.
Let’s face it, women are more likely to cram their feet into uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fun or fashion, which means women are also more likely than men to develop hammertoes. Just as waves crashing against rock slowly rub the stone down over time, so too will the wrong shoes forces your toes out of alignment, causing unpleasant side effects and potentially permanent damage. Toes that become bunched up inside tight or ill-fitting shoes can still give trouble, even when you switch to better shoes. Corns and calluses formed by constant friction make for unpleasant walking companions. Those with Morton’s Toe (a second toe that is longer than your first toe) need to be especially careful when choosing shoes as they are at increased risk of developing a hammertoe.
It seems obvious to say that direct trauma to a toe may deform it, but it takes a certain type of trauma to create a hammertoe. Those traumas include stubbing, jamming, or breaking your toe. It generally doesn’t just break into the perfect hammertoe shape though. Often these injuries can cause lasting bone deformity or lead to changes in toe flexibility or strength all of which can ultimately lead to a hammertoe.
Technically, all hammertoes are a result of a muscle imbalance. When an outside force (e.g. your shoes) pushes your toes in one direction or another, the muscles and tendons will stretch and contract to adapt to the shape. If they adapt too much and become loose or tight, this imbalance will remain long after you take your shoes off.These muscle imbalances may also be the result of a preexisting condition such as arthritis or be exacerbated by unrelated conditions like diabetes.
In the end, hammertoes are a relatively straightforward condition; things bend and stretch and if they are stretched one way too long it leads to deformity, thus, a hammertoe. Get these fixed as soon as you see them developing! If caught in the early stages, hammertoes may be fixed with protective padding, special taping techniques, custom orthotics, shoe and lifestyle changes, and exercise. If the hammertoe progresses too far, surgery may be the only option. Don’t let it get that far. See your podiatrist today about your hammertoes!