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Claw Toes

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After suffering a stroke, Mr. Eddison started to observe the toes of his right foot. They were curled inwards and had become very painful. He found wearing shoes very difficult. He spoke to his cardiologists, who in turn referred him to a podiatrist. The podiatrist rightly diagnosed his condition as ‘claw toes’.

Overview of claw toes

Claw toes are a deformity of the toes where the dorsiflexion of the proximal phalanx on the lesser metatarsophalangeal joint is affected along with the flexion of the proximal (PIP) and distal interphalangeal joints (DIP). This condition can affect the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and the 5th toes.

The toe appears like a claw due to the bending or curling downwards of the middle joint and the joint at the end. Also, the joint where the toe meets the foot is also affected. The condition occurs due to a muscle imbalance that causes tightening of the ligaments and tendons. This results in the joints to curl downwards.

If left untreated, the condition can worsen and become a permanent deformity.

Classification of claw toes

Claw toes are classified into two types: flexible and rigid. In case of a flexible claw toe, the joint can be straightened with manual help. This means the joint is still flexible and can be straightened manually.This condition can be corrected with the help of a splint or athletic tape that helps in repositioning the joints. One should wear soft shoes that give your toes ample of space. Avoid wearing heels that are over 2 inches. One should also exercise their toes by carrying out simple tasks like picking up the towel with the toes or small objects.

In rigid claw toe, the toe cannot be straightened with help, that is, manually. Rigid toe is extremely painful and limits one’s movements. As the movement is restricted, a lot of pressure moves over to the ball-of-the-foot. This further leads to corns, calluses as well as extreme pain in the foot.

Symptoms of claw toes

Claw toes causes the toes to bend upward from the joints at the ball-of-the -foot. The toes can bend downward at the middle joints towards the sole of the shoe. At times, the tows can also bend downwards and curl under the foot. One may also observe corns on the toes or near the ball-of-the-foot.

Causes of claw toes

There are different causes of claw toes. One of the most common reasons being shoes. Wearing shoes that are too short or don’t give enough room to the toes is the main reason. Those who wear pointed, high-heeled shoes are one of the usual culprits. Such shoes cause the toes to get mushed into each other and suffer from joint problems.

In some cases, people with naturally high arches of the foot can develop claw toes.Other causes for claw toes include underlying health conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, polio, stroke, spinal cord tumors, Charcot-Marie-Tooth diseases, etc. An imbalance between the ligaments and the tendons that makes the muscles tight leads to curling of the toes. Thus, leading to claw toes.

Diagnosis of claw toes

Symptoms of claw toes calls for a medical evaluation. The doctor may suggest a blood test for diabetes, Rheumatoid factor; X-ray to check for arthritis and other orthopedic conditions. In most cases, the symptoms directly point towards claw toes.

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Treatment of claw toes

Claw toe is usually flexible initially. With time, the condition may worsen and turn into the rigid claw toe. Thus, it is very important to seek medical help during the initial symptoms.

In case of flexible claw toes, the doctor may suggest a change in shoes. Wear shoes that are soft and roomy. Avoid tight shoes and high-heels. With the help of your hands, stretch the toes and toe joints to their normal position. Pick up clothes, towels or tiny objects from the floor with the help of the toes. This will help exercise the toes and loosen the tight muscles. There are splints, that help in realigning the affected toes. Anti-inflammatories are prescribed to help relieve the pain and inflammation.

When the claw toe is rigid or turns permanent, surgery is suggested. This helps in tendon lengthening, rerouting or straightening the toe with the help of proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint resection. There are different types of claw toe surgeries, which are carried out according to the deformity or condition of the individual patient.

Claw toe can affect the way one walks and stands. Thus, get treatment before things worsen and the deformity becomes permanent.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: March 02, 2015