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Swollen Toe

Ingrown toenailA swollen toe can be caused by a number of reasons. We outline and link to more detail of some of the more common ones.

The causes of a swollen toe can be split into three groups; traumatic toe injuries usually involving an impact, over use injuries such as tendonitis and medical conditions.

What Causes a Swollen Toe?

There are many possible reasons for a swollen toe. It could be due to a traumatic injury, overuse injury or even an underlying medical condition.

The toes consist of three bones called the phalanges, with the exception of the big toe (or hallux) which contains only 2. These bones are held together by ligaments. Tendons also pass through the toes and connect to these bones to allow movement when the muscles within the foot and lower leg contract. You will also find nerves and blood vessels in the toes.

Traumatic injuries

If you have dropped something on your toe or been involved in a traumatic incident such as a tackle or a car accident, then a swollen toe could indicate:

  • A broken toe
  • Bruising of the bone or surrounding soft tissue
  • A ligament injury if the toe was bent backwards or twisted e.g. turf toe

Overuse injuries

An overuse injury is one that comes on gradually, rather than following a specific incident. Pain usually gradually increases.

  • Metatarsalgia
  • Tendonitis - inflammation of one of the tendons in the toe.
  • Bursitis - often secondary to a hammer toe and located on the top of the second toe.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions may result in swelling in the feet and toes:

  • Gout - other symptoms will include redness, heat and pain.
  • Arthritis
  • Infection
  • Venous thrombosis (blood clot)
  • Allergic reaction (to anything from medications, to food, to insect bites.

Treatment of a Swollen Toe

Treatment will depend on the cause of the swelling. Visit your Doctor or a sports injury specialist for an assessment. If you suspect it may be any of the medical conditions listed, visit your Doctor as soon as possible.

If the swelling is as a result of a traumatic injury, swelling can be reduced by resting, applying cold therapy and elevating the foot.

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