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What is a fractured toe?

An injury or trauma to the feet causes a fracture breaking the bone into two or more pieces or causing to a thin hairline crack. Based on the severity, there are several treatment options.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

  • Continuous throbbing pain is the primary symptom of a fractured toe.
  • You will also develop a swelling over the toe.
  • Any movement of the fractured toe is difficult, making it painful to move or walk.
  • In case of a hairline fracture, pain will be less and you may even be able to walk without any trouble.
  • If the fracture is very severe, the toe becomes bluish and appears deformed.

What are the main causes?

  • Dropping a heavy object on the toe can cause a fracture. Since it is the most protruding part of the foot, it is prone to such injuries.
  • Hitting your foot against something hard or any trauma can also cause fracture.
  • Individuals who have weak bones due to osteoporosis often suffer from stress fractures. This means the bone breaks simply due to repetitive walking movements or ill-fitting shoes.
  • Stress fractures or hairline fractures can also occur due to continuous stress on the bone or just due to repeated movement.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

An orthopaedic doctor can diagnose a fractured toe based on physical exam and an X-ray. If the injury has caused any bruises or open wounds, an infection might be suspected. To rule this out, the doctor may advise a blood test.

Medical treatment of a fracture depends on its severity.

  • Minor fractures like hairline fractures do not require any intervention except rest and painkillers.  A crepe bandage will be enough to hold the fracture in place.
  • Antibiotics are prescribed if there is an infection in addition to the fracture.
  • The fractured toe is splinted to other toes to stabilise it and reduce movement.
  • If the fracture causes displacement, the bone may have to be re-set in place. Similarly, if the bone is broken in more than two pieces, surgery is needed.
  • Home care for fractures include keeping the foot elevated, applying ice and providing adequate rest.
  • In most cases, a fractured toe heals within four to eight weeks.
  1. Medicines for Fractured Toe

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References

  1. M.E. Van Hal et al. Stress fractures of the great toe sesamoids. First Published March 1, 1982. [Internet]
  2. Eves TB, Oddy MJ. [text]. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2016 May-Jun;55(3):488-91. PMID: 26961415
  3. Van Vliet-Koppert ST et al. Demographics and functional outcome of toe fractures.. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2011 May-Jun;50(3):307-10. PMID: 21440463
  4. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Broken toe - self-care
  5. Hatch RL, Hacking S. Evaluation and management of toe fractures.. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Dec 15;68(12):2413-8. PMID: 14705761
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