A hammertoe is a contracture, or bending, of the toe at the first joint of the digit, called the proximal interphalangeal joint. This bending causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when looked at from the side. Any toe can be involved, but the condition usually affects the second through fifth toes, known as the lesser digits. Hammertoes are more common in females than males.

There are two different types:
Flexible Hammertoes: These hammertoes are less serious because they can be diagnosed and treated while still in the developmental stage. They are called flexible hammertoes because they are still moveable at the joint.

Rigid Hammertoes: This variety is more developed and more serious than the flexible condition. Rigid hammertoes can be seen in patients with severe arthritis, for example, or in patients who wait too long to seek professional treatment. The tendons in a rigid hammertoe have become tight, and the joint misaligned and immobile, making surgery the usual course of treatment.

A hammertoe develops because of an abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes. This abnormal balance causes increased pressures on the tendons and joints of the toe, leading to its contracture. Heredity and trauma can also lead to the formation of a hammertoe. Arthritis is another factor, because the balance around the toe in people with arthritis is disrupted.
Wearing shoes that are too tight and cause the toes to squeeze can also cause a hammertoe to form.

The symptoms of a hammer toe include the following:
– Pain at the top of the bent toe upon pressure from footwear
– Formation of corns on the top of the joint
– Redness and swelling at the joint contracture
– Restricted or painful motion of the toe joint
– Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe

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