Hammertoes are a common foot deformity that can be caused by several factors, including diabetes.
When you have uncontrolled diabetes it affects the blood sugar levels in your body and can lead to a variety of health problems including hammertoe. In this article, we will discuss hammertoes and how they are related to diabetes.
We will also provide tips on how to prevent hammertoes from developing if you have diabetes and the best treatment options for it.
Finally, we will also detail any other health conditions that could be causing your hammertoes.
What causes diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body regulates your blood sugar called glucose. The two most common forms of diabetes are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas stops producing the hormone insulin because your immune system mistakenly attacks it.
Insulin allows your cells to take in glucose and use it for energy. Type 2 diabetes happens when your cells become insulin resistant and do not respond to insulin.
Both of these types of diabetes lead to high blood sugar levels which can damage your organs and lead to serious health problems over time including heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and diabetic foot complications.
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Why are diabetic foot complications so prevalent?
Diabetic foot problems are common due to a combination of factors.
First, high blood glucose levels can damage your nerves and lead to diabetic neuropathy which is a condition that causes numbness and tingling in your extremities due to nerve damage.
Diabetic neuropathy, also called diabetic peripheral neuropathy, can make it difficult for you to feel when you have an injury or infection on your foot.
Second, diabetes can cause poor circulation which can make it difficult for wounds to heal. Poor circulation can also cause foot ulcers or open sores that can become infected.
If you are diabetic and have poor blood flow it is most commonly caused by a condition called peripheral artery disease which causes your blood vessels to narrow due to plaque buildup leading to reduced circulation.
Lastly, diabetes weakens your immune system which makes it more difficult for your body to fight off infection. Diabetic ulcers or sores on your feet can become infected which may result in amputation.
What are hammertoes?
A hammertoe is a foot deformity in which one of the middle joints (the joint closest to your foot) of your toes becomes bent at the joint and points downward.
Hammertoes can occur on any toe but they most commonly affect your second, third, or fourth toes.
They are often caused by shoes that do not fit properly and put pressure on your toes. Other causes of hammertoes include foot structure, trauma, and certain medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and bunions.
Mallet toes are very similar to hammer toes in that they are a deformity that causes your toes to point downwards but the key difference is that mallet toes affect the joint closest to your nail instead of the middle joint on your toes.
How does diabetes cause hammertoes?
Diabetes can cause hammertoes in a few different ways.
As mentioned above, diabetic neuropathy can lead to hammertoes because it causes you to lose feeling in your toes and you can’t determine when your shoes are too tight or putting pressure on your toes which can cause deformity.
Hammertoes are also more common if you have diabetes because you are more likely to have bunions which is a bony bump that forms on your big toe joint and can cause hammertoes by pushing your other toes out of alignment and causing them to bend at the joint.
Lastly, diabetes can cause hammertoes by creating instability in your foot muscles due to the numbness in your feet from diabetic neuropathy.
The instability can lead to muscle imbalance and deformities such as hammertoes.
What are the treatment options for hammertoes?
The first step in treating hammertoes is to change your shoes.
You need to avoid tight shoes or high heels that put pressure on your toes.
If you have hammertoes, it is best to wear roomy, comfortable shoes with plenty of toe space such as sandals, flats, or wide-width shoes.
Some devices can also be placed in your shoes such as toe pads, hammertoe crests, and arch supports to help relieve pressure on your toes.
Orthotics (shoe inserts) can also be made to fit your shoes and provide support. You can also practice exercises with your toes such as picking up marbles or towels with them to loosen up your toe muscles.
If these conservative measures do not help, surgery may be required to release the tendon and straighten your toe and your surgeon may need to remove some of your bone too.
Are there any ways to prevent hammertoes?
There are a few things you can do to help prevent hammertoes such as wearing well-fitting shoes, stretching your toes and feet regularly, and avoiding high heels.
Avoid wearing pointed-toe shoes and high heels too.
If you have diabetes, it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels and see your doctor or podiatrist (foot doctor) regularly for a diabetic foot exam to help prevent complications and foot deformities such as hammertoes.
What other foot complications are caused by diabetes?
In addition to hammertoes, there are a few other foot complications that can be caused by diabetes. The most common include:
- Diabetic blisters
- Fungal infections such as athlete’s foot or fungal nails
- Ingrown toenails
- Diabetic foot ulcers
- Claw toe deformity which is when you have a deformity on both the middle and end joints on your toes
- Charcot foot which is a foot deformity that can be caused by diabetic neuropathy and can lead to severe deformities
- Dry skin
- Plantar warts
These are just a few of the many foot complications that can be caused by diabetes.
Hammertoes, bunions, and other foot or toe deformities can make it difficult to walk and put you at risk for falls and injuries. It is important to see your doctor or podiatrist regularly to help prevent these foot complications.
Hammertoes can be caused by diabetes in a few different ways such as diabetic neuropathy, bunions, and muscle imbalances.
Treatment options include conservative measures such as changing your shoes, getting orthotic inserts, and stretching your toes although surgery is also an option in severe cases.
You can help prevent hammertoes by wearing well-fitting shoes, stretching your toes, and avoiding high heels and ill-fitting shoes.
Hammertoes are just one of the many foot complications that can be caused by diabetes so it is important to see your doctor or podiatrist regularly for a physical examination.
Please consult with your doctor, podiatrist, or health care provider if you have any questions regarding diabetes and foot complications.
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