Having diabetes increases your risk of hammertoe. Here’s how to prevent it.
If you have diabetes, you may be aware of how diabetic neuropathy can affect your feet. Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness and other sensations in the feet and legs, which tends to mask any pain a person might feel from any cuts or sores they might have on their feet. If these wounds aren’t cared for properly, it can lead to infection.
This nerve damage from diabetes can increase your chances of developing certain foot problems, like hammertoe, which is a contracture deformity, or bending, of one or both joints in the little toes.
The most common cause of hammertoe is an imbalance of the muscles and tendons, which is usually due to structural or neurological changes in the foot that occur over time. “The small muscles [and] tendons in the foot can be affected by [diabetic] neuropathy,” says podiatrist William Spielfogel, DPM, chief of the division of podiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital. When the nerve endings in the small muscles and tendons aren’t functioning well, the imbalance can cause the toe to contract up, he says.
If the toe is contracted and rubs up against the top of the shoe, and you have a lack of sensation, you can develop a sore on that toe, which could lead to an ulceration and further complications, says Dr. Spielfogel.
How to Prevent Hammertoe When You Have Diabetes
Hammertoe is often aggravated by shoes that don’t fit you properly. If a toe is too long and is forced into a cramped position with too-tight shoes, it could cause a hammertoe. “Think about the shoes that you’re wearing. You might need bigger shoes or better fitting shoes, or maybe you don’t tie your shoelaces so tight,” says Minisha Sood, MD, an endocrinologist in New York City. Your feet can get larger with age or after certain body changes like pregnancy. So just because you’ve always worn a size 8.5 in the past doesn’t mean you should now. Different shoe brands can also vary widely in how they fit. If you have diabetes, it’s a good idea to get your feet measured and properly sized whenever you go shoe shopping. Sometimes hammertoe may also result from previous trauma to the toe.
Along with making sure you have the proper fitting shoes, managing your blood sugar and taking care of your feet regularly are the most important steps you can take to prevent any foot problems that may develop with diabetes. Take a look every day to make sure there [aren’t] any spots that are red, says Dr. Sood. “Address little cuts and scrapes, and cracked skin areas early, and don’t let them kind of fester and collect bacteria, because that can turn into infection.”
Here are more healthy foot habits to follow with diabetes.
00:00.856 --> 00:02.520 line:15%
00:02.520 --> 00:05.330 line:15%
-: A hammertoe is a contracture of the toe.
00:05.330 --> 00:08.445 line:15%
So for example let's say my finger is the toe.
00:08.445 --> 00:12.690
My, the toe is contracting up like this
00:12.690 --> 00:15.400
and this position of the toe is called a hammertoe.
00:15.400 --> 00:17.900
00:21.550 --> 00:24.980 line:15%
-: So neuropathy or diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage
00:24.980 --> 00:27.320 line:15%
from poor blood flow to the nerves.
00:27.320 --> 00:31.070
-: The small muscles in the foot and the tendons in the
00:31.070 --> 00:34.760
foot can be affected by the condition called neuropathy
00:34.760 --> 00:37.800
which is the lack of sensation in the feet.
00:37.800 --> 00:40.800 line:15%
The nerve endings get affected in the small muscles
00:40.800 --> 00:43.960 line:15%
and tendons in the foot and they're not functioning.
00:43.960 --> 00:46.620
Also there's an imbalance and then the toes start to
00:46.620 --> 00:49.060
contract up and you develop what's called a hammertoe.
00:49.060 --> 00:52.099
If their toe is contracted in sort of up in the air
00:52.099 --> 00:54.456
and rubs up against the top of the shoe and you have a lack
00:54.456 --> 00:59.139 line:15%
of sensation you can develop a sore on that toe which could
00:59.139 --> 01:04.139 line:15%
lead to an ulceration and wind up with a bad complication.
01:04.350 --> 01:06.590
-: In order to prevent foot problems in patients with
01:06.590 --> 01:09.250 line:15%
diabetes, glucose control or blood sugar control is the
01:09.250 --> 01:10.700 line:15%
most important thing you know.
01:10.700 --> 01:12.680 line:15%
And then regular attention to your feet.
01:12.680 --> 01:14.920
Take a look every day and make sure that if there are any
01:14.920 --> 01:17.440
spots that are red, think about the shoes that
01:17.440 --> 01:18.998
01:18.998 --> 01:20.480 line:15%
You know you might need bigger shoes or better
01:20.480 --> 01:22.900 line:15%
fitting shoes or maybe you don't tie your shoelaces
01:22.900 --> 01:23.733 line:15%
01:23.733 --> 01:26.758
Address little cuts and scrapes and cracked skin areas
01:26.758 --> 01:29.870
early and don't let them just kind of fester
01:29.870 --> 01:31.139
and collect bacteria.
01:31.139 --> 01:33.639 line:15%
Hammertoes. Chicago, IL. American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. (Access on May 5, 2021 at https://www.foothealthfacts.org/conditions/hammertoe)Evaluation and diagnosis of common causes of forefoot pain in adults. Watham, MA. UpToDate, 2019. (Access on May 5, 2021at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/evaluation-and-diagnosis-of-common-causes-of-forefoot-pain-in-adults)