Bunion caused overlap

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When toes overlap

By Leana Huntley

Are your toes pressed together until they cross each other causing irritation, while sometimes making walking difficult?

Then you have overlapping toes! It’s one of the common problems we are faced with frequently at the clinic.

Overlapping toes characterises a condition where one toe lies on top of an adjacent toe, causing discomfort and pain. Many disorders like overlapping toes can affect the joints in the toes, causing pain, and preventing the foot from functioning as it should. It is a problem that can affect persons of all ages.

Causes
Wearing footwear with a constricting toe box can lead to overlapping toes. Another common cause is bunions, found more in adult women, while overlapping of the fifth toe may occur among children.

Ill-fitting shoes, apart from the pain they can cause because of the faulty fitting, are another cause of this foot problem. Very pointed shoes, with very little room for properly accommodating all the five toes comfortably, could certainly contribute to the development of overlaps. Such a development is possible too if some complaints on the foot are left unattended. Examples are swellings at the first joint on the big toe, along with projections from the end of the big toe. Inadequate space in the toe region of the big toe pushes the two outward toes inwards, and as a consequence, this problem occurs. It may happen to two of the toes inside as well.

Because the outer parts of the foot tend to get pressed more, the last toe could jump and press itself on top of the fourth toe. Meanwhile, a medical condition that is a serious contributor to overlapping is rheumatoid arthritis since the joints become twisted.

With respect to children, it is a problem when one toe overlaps the neighbouring one and can happen if their feet are flat.

These children tend to walk a little differently from normal, because the body weight is not spread uniformly over the foot.

The way a flat foot functions can cause hammering of the little toe, leading it to cross over the next toe.

Complications
Apart from looking a bit unattractive, unattended overlapping toes could be the reason for some other afflictions. Thickening of the skin and tissue in the toe region is one of the consequences of not attending to this foot problem in time.

Additionally, pain is caused by the abnormality that comes about in the structure of the bones of adjacent toes.

With severe overlapping persons are predisposed to athlete’s foot and/or slits on the underside of the toes, and even inflammation. This presents a real challenge for seniors and persons who can’t care for their feet themselves.

Other complications include soft calluses between the toes, or hard calluses/corns on top, where the joint is located, due to rubbing on the shoe. Both can be extremely painful.

Treatment and prevention
This is dependent on the stage of the problem. However, anything that causes pain or discomfort in the toes should be given prompt attention. Ignoring the symptoms can aggravate the condition, and lead to a breakdown of tissue or even infection. Toes overlapping are a deformity that occurs, however with this happening it is not easy to fix if not addressed early.

Treatment (non-surgical) of overlapping toes begins with accommodating the disorder. Shoes with a high, broad toe box (toe area) are recommended for the affected sufferers.

The simplest form of treatment of this condition without consulting a doctor is to change the shoes and go for shoes with a broad front, which will give sufficient space for all the toes to be accommodated comfortably. Foot specialists or podiatrists treat overlapping toes with a variety of props, caps, and dividers. All these devices are aimed at restoration, by forcing the overlapping toe to its normal position. As a consequence, there is no friction between toes, and the pain is removed.

Surgery is not usually recommended, but can be in instances where there is rigid deformity. Of course there’s downtime involved once surgery has to be done, including the inability to wear shoes until full healing has taken place.

For flat-footed children, an orthotic physician is the best person to be consulted. Though it may develop in childhood, if left unattended, the abnormality will continue through the entire lifespan of the person, and it will be a painful experience all through. In these cases, orthotics (arch supports) can help correct the problem.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

Leana Huntley is an English trained foot health practitioner
attached to ALMAWI Limited – The Holistic Clinic. For further information, please e-mail lhuntley@almawiclinic.com . Check for the Clinic at www.almawiclinic.com.
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