Toe pain

November 12, 2012

Toe pain

Feet are made up of many tiny and intricate bones, and toe pain often results from ill-fitting footwear crushing the bones out of place.

Toes are made up of the phalanges, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels – all of which may be injured, infected or otherwise affected by a condition causing toe pain.

Symptoms of toe pain

Toe pain may be so mild it is barely noticeable or so severe it makes wearing shoes impossible, it may be something that comes and goes or remains constant and is the result of a wide variety of conditions.

The type of toe pain experienced by individuals is variously described as throbbing, piercing, tingling prickling, burning or as being similar to pins and needles.

Some types of toe pain are symptomatic of a more serious underlying condition such as an infection or even peripheral arterial disease – any persistent toe pain which is accompanied by swelling, redness and heat in the toe should be promptly examined by a medical practitioner.

Toe pain which occurs with other symptoms may also mean that prompt medical attention is required, these may include -

  • Cold toes, or a burning sensation in the toe

  • Difficulty moving the toe

  • Flu like symptoms

  • Joint pain

  • Numbness

  • Discolouration of the skin or bumps

  • Swelling of the area

  • Red streaks around the toe

  • High fever

  • Change in consciousness

Causes of toe pain

Toe pain is often simply the result of the natural aging process and wear and tear caused by everyday life. Common causes of toe pain include arthritis, bunions or the development of calluses.

More serious causes of toe pain may be indicated by the presence of other symptoms – for example, slow healing wounds on the toes may be indicative of poor circulation due to peripheral arterial disease.

Pain due to injury may be caused by any of the following -

  • Damage to toe nail

  • Broken phalanges

  • Dislocation of the joint

  • Frostbite

  • Splinter

  • Strain or sprain

  • Burn or laceration

Pain due to infection may be the result of any of the following conditions -

  • Fungal infection

  • Skin infection

  • Wound infection

  • Bone infection

  • Infected joint

Degenerative, inflammatory and neurological causes of pain in the toes include the following -

  • Bunions

  • Bursitis

  • Gout

  • Arthritis – rheumatoid or osteo

  • Hammer toe

  • Nerve compression

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Tendinitis

Other causes of pain may be the result of a minor problem or may be indicative of another more serious condition.

  • Ingrown toenail

  • Tumour

  • Peripheral arterial disease

Potential complications

Mild pain and discomfort in the toes which is the result of wearing ill fitting shoes or injury is easily remedied with rest, ice packs and over the counter pain killing medication and a change in footwear.

However, if it is discovered that the toe pain is the result of an underlying disorder or disease then there may be associated serious complications such as disability, amputation, permanent nerve damage, spread of infection. For this reason anyone suffering persistent, chronic pain with or without other symptoms should seek medical advice.

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