Toe Pain


Because this area of the foot is comprised of bones, phalanges, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels there is little wonder that toe pain is such a common occurrences. The fact that these parts of the foot are susceptible to injury and infection, combined with most people’s negligence of this part of the body, means that the toes are particularly vulnerable to being abused and causing discomfort.  While most toe pain is caused by minor issues it can also indicate the presence of serious conditions or underlying causes such as peripheral artery disease or infection.

Discomfort in this area of the foot may be acute or chronic, and patients often describe the pain as a ‘throbbing, piercing, tingling or burning’ sensation, and while some of these symptoms are ascribed to paresthesia they can also be caused by a range of developments, such as bunions, calluses, injury, or nerve damage. Sensations of coldness or stiffness in the joints are not uncommon and swelling may be present as well.

Aside from general and easy to diagnose causes of toe pain, such as stubbing the toe or having overly long digits, there can be more subtle causes of discomfort as well, such as diabetes or a heart condition. If pain in the toes and feet are accompanied by fever, swelling, redness and warmth then medical attention should be sought as infection (or other serious issues) are likely. Emergency medical attention should be sought immediately if there is a change in consciousness or alertness, if shortness of breath occurs, or if the toes are streaked with red.

The most commonly occurring infections in the feet are athlete’s foot (fungal), osteomyelitis (bone), septic arthritis (joint), and cellulitis (skin). Any one of these components may develop an infection that needs to be medically treated. Age is often a factor in toe pain as well, as wear and tear over time causes deterioration in skin, muscle, bones, and connective tissues, not to mention that people become more susceptible to broken bones and dislocations in the feet and toes as we age.

Arthritis is another common cause of toe pain as is diabetes. Reduced circulation due to the presence of diabetes or arterial disease may cause sores on the toe that do not heal quickly or easily, and special care should be taken to treat these conditions as soon as they occur. Gout, bursitis, hallux rigidus, Morton’s neuroma, tendinitis, ingrown toenails, and hammer or mallet toe are also some of the more common factors in the development of toe pain. While tumors can also be an underlying cause of toe pain they are rare and not of primary concern in this circumstance.

Treating toe pain relies on isolating the cause of the discomfort, so the exact location of the pain, the type of pain, the length of time the pain has been occurring, and additional symptoms and circumstances become vitally important bits of information.

Most toe pain is the result of minor injuries such as stubbing the foot or wearing improper foot wear. Injuries require time and a little bit of care to heal, and lifestyle factors can always be modified, however, serious or persistent symptoms should be reported to your healthcare provider right away in case there is a more pressing underlying condition.

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