A number of conditions can affect the feet. Ask anyone, and they can probably name one or two foot problems they are itching to just say out loud. One of these problems is hammertoe.     Hammertoe is a condition where joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth toe gets bent due to constant pressure. This abnormal occurrence impedes normal development, causing a sort of physical deformity. Early onset of hammertoe is usually mild but can  and usually progressively worsen over time.     Sure hammertoe is not fatal, nor does it cause any serious motor impediment. However, hammertoes do not get better without intervention, and what starts as minor discomfort can become unbearable pain.    I noticed a hammertoe developing in my little toe when I started constantly wearing heels to school and work. Heels that are tight in the toe area exposed my toes to pressure, and without enough room, my toes were always bent and cramped.     Hammertoes are genetic. Yes, you have to have a hammertoe “gene” to be predispose to develop hammertoes. And you better believe if you possess that gene, you will develop hammertoes if you wear ill-fitting shoes.  Sometimes, hammertoes are the result of trauma and arthritis and I am sure you know someone who has hit their foot or drop something on their foot, and caused feet problems.     Its symptoms are readily apparent, but physical exam is necessary to accurately assess the condition of the affected toe. Symptoms of hammertoes include pain or irritation on the affected toe when wearing shoes, and corns and calluses on the toe, between two toes, or on the ball of the foot. Inflammation, redness, and burning sensations also occur.     Your foot and ankle surgeon will decide which treatment plan will work for you.  Usually non-invasive treatments are sufficient to help relive symptoms. In severe cases and when patients develop an open sore on the toe, is surgery needed.     Non-surgical treatments include padding of the corns and calluses. The medicated pads are not recommended so try over-the-counter pads to protect corns form irritation. However, it is best to consult your physician regarding this option. You can also just simply change footwear to comfortable ones with deep and roomy toe box, which is exactly what I did. I used to wear high-heeled shoes all the time, but now I no longer do.    Other options include custom orthotic devices that are placed in your shoe to help control muscle/tendon imbalance, injection therapy of corticosteroid to ease the pain and inflammation or oral medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen), and using splints or small straps applied by a surgeon to realign bent toes.    The best way to beat hammertoe is thru early prevention. Don’t wait until your little toes are looking like a hammer, symptoms are indications that something is wrong, and must therefore be addressed to immediately treat the underlying cause.

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