Understanding Corns and Hammertoes
“Doctor!” I have these ugly corns on my toes and I can’t get rid of them!”
This is a common concern from patients, especially ladies, during the spring and summer.
A corn is a buildup of hypertrophic or thick skin on the top of or on the side of a toe. This hypertrophic skin can thicken and become very painful, usually secondary to friction from the neighboring toe or too tight shoe gear. Corns are painful and, to say the least, not so pleasing to the eye; however, in most cases the corn is a result of the actual problem. That problem is called hammertoe. Yes, the corn may be what is giving you that excruciating pain, but usually the corn is a result of a hammertoe.
A hammertoe is a contracture of the toe secondary to a muscle imbalance. This is usually hereditary. So, you can thank Dad, Grandma or someone else in the family tree for your hammertoes. As a hammertoe contracts, or bends, an apex appears. That apex is typically a tone of the two joints in your toe and sometimes at both of them joints. Some may call it the “knuckle” on the toe or “where the toe bends”. This is where friction will occur from shoe gear or the neighboring toe to cause our old friend, that ‘ole corn.
So, it is not the thick skin (corn) that is giving you pain, but the contracted joint or knuckle of the toe (hammertoe) is causing the corn.
Most patients do well with conservative treatment. Wider shoes, debridement of hypertrophic skin, and various NON-MEDICATED padding will often times help alleviate the pain associated with hammertoes. If conservative treatment doesn’t yield relief, a quick surgical procedure may be needed. If so, most patients are walking the same day of surgery.
A treatment protocol to get you back on your feet, pain free, and into those sandals as you get ready for spring and summer!