Knowing When It’s Time for Toe Deformity Surgery

No matter the patient or condition in need of treatment, we always have a similar goal—to resolve the problem without needing to use surgical intervention.

The fact of the matter is that we aren’t always able to achieve this goal, at least not the “without using surgery” part.

One particular category of foot problems that is more likely to require surgery are toe deformities, like bunions, hammertoes, mallet toes, and claw toes.

So why do these conditions have a greater likelihood of surgery? Well, the answer comes down to their progressive nature.

By “progressive,” we mean two things:

The condition will only continue to progress (become more severe) when left unaddressed.
Even if we are able to address symptoms and slow (or halt) progression through conservative methods—and this is certainly the case for some patients—an unusually angled, bent, and/or curled toe can only be restored to a normal, natural position through surgery.

How do you know when it’s time for surgery?

Toe deformities are frequently treated via conservative, nonsurgical methods, but sometimes it is necessary to have a procedure performed to correct the situation.

Before we get to that point, we will try such measures as pads, splints, or orthotics. Sometimes well-fitting shoes that have a wide, deep toe box will help prevent the pain and discomfort that may accompany these conditions.

When other options have been exhausted, it is time to at least consider surgical intervention.

You will know that we have reached this point when the symptoms—pain, unusual shape of your big toe, rigidity in a hammertoe—are severe. In this instance, “severe” means that the pain and discomfort is limiting your everyday activities, including wearing reasonable shoes (not high heels) or being able to simply walk a couple of blocks.

Other indicators that surgery may be necessary include chronic swelling and inflammation that do not improve with medication or rest and toe stiffness that consistently causes problems.

To recap, you may need surgery if:

  • Other treatment options fail
  • Severe pain limits your daily activities
  • There is chronic inflammation and swelling
  • Toe stiffness prevents bending and straightening

For more information on bunions, hammertoes, or any of the foot and ankle problems we treat—or to request your appointment with our Palm Desert office—simply call (760) 568-0108.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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