Our feet and toes are so important to how we function on a daily basis, yet we often take them for granted. From the perspective of a foot specialist, of course your feet should rank high on your list of things to take care of. After all, if our feet aren’t doing what we need them to or are painful and limiting your activity – it affects your entire body as well as your psychological well-being. From a high level athlete who is out of the game, to a child who has to sit out during sports or recess, to an elderly person who now needs to rely on others for transportation and daily chores – we all really start to understand how important our feet are after something has gone wrong.
One possible instance that we see is an injury to the ends of the toes. Sure, we all stub our toes from time to time. It isn’t uncommon for a person to have fractured a toe, but go on about their lives until they realize that it’s been hurting for 2 months! Another unfortunate injury is what we refer to as a crush injury. We carry and move a variety of things, whether at home or at work and gravity means that if something falls, it will likely fall on our toes. When a heavy object falls on the toe a variety of injuries can occur.
In some cases, only a part of what you are carrying or moving may hit the toe or may hit it in a way which only affects the nail. In these cases, you can experience an ingrown nail or a subungual hematoma. This is a fancy way to say that bleeding occurs under the toenail – some may refer to it as a bruised toenail. The treatment for this depends on the amount of bleeding under the nail as well as the symptoms. It can be relatively simple to treat, but requires x-rays to ensure no underlying damage has been done.
If our toe sustains a substantial injury, the toenail may not be the only affected structure. The underlying bone (called the phalanx) can become bruised or even broken. If there is both a fracture and bleeding under the nail, prompt assessment is required to evaluate for a laceration of the nail bed, as this poses an increased concern for infection. In these instances, the first line of treatment should be sought quickly and requires removal of the toenail in order to check for underlying open lesions on the nail bed. This sounds like a painful procedure, but the worst part is the toe injection to numb the area. After this, when the anesthetic wears off, we often see that the pain is improved, as the pressure from the injury is somewhat relieved by the nail being removed.
There are some cases where a toe may be fractured after an injury, but the nail is spared. In this case, the location and position of the fracture determines the appropriate treatment. Surgery can be performed when needed, but in some cases it may be best to immobilize the affected area and just allow the body to heal.
With such a wide scope of possible scenarios, you can see why it is important not to shrug off a toe injury. Our office can offer appointments within 24 hours – often same day – for these situations. Don’t let your toe injury become any more than it already is. Call our office today and schedule a visit if you have a throbbing toe!