7 Common Problems That Make Your Big Toe Hurt

It’s no joke when your big toe joint hurts because of problems in other areas of your foot. You may start to experience swelling, bruising, redness or discoloration. Other symptoms include nail pain and stiffness. You may also experience difficulty and discomfort when you try to wear shoes.

If these symptoms sound familiar, it's time to see your Houston podiatrist. Together, we can get to the bottom of your foot pain. And, in the mean time, let's review some of the 7 most common conditions that could be causing your big toe pain. 

 

The Wrong Shoes

If you spend a lot of time in high heels, your feet could feel achy. If those shoes have pointy toes? You'll feel it in your big toe, too. But even without stilettoes, the wrong shoes could hurt your feet. If your shoe size has changed and you don't know it, old shoes may cause toe pain. This is especially true if you're pregnant, since your feet often get bigger (but here's how you can stop that!) So, your first step to figuring out big toe pain? Check your shoe fit. And, if that's not the problem, keep on reading for more possibilities.

Gout

Use our blog post to investigate what's causing your big toe pain

Gout is a painful type of arthritis that is often diagnosed by your podiatrist. Why is that the case? Podiatric offices see many gout cases. That's because gout often causes big toe joint symptoms before making trouble anywhere else.

While it is a type of arthritis, this condition develops when your body has high levels of uric acid. That acidic buildup causes urate crystals to form in your blood. Often, they settle in your toe joint, triggering the onset painful symptoms.

The symptoms of gout include intense pain, inflammation, redness, and tenderness. Now, gout first causes symptoms to develop around your big toe. So you may confuse this painful problem for other conditions. After all, you'll develop swelling and limited mobility with many foot pain sources. 

So, how can you distinguish gout from other painful toe conditions? The answer lies in the onset of symptoms. Most of the other conditions we'll discuss today show up as a small problem that gradually gets worse. But with gout, your symptoms may come on suddenly and be instantly excruciating. I often hear people talk about gout pain as being unbearable. With even the minimal weight of a sheet on your toe feeling like torture. 

Fortunately, we've got great gout treatments to help provide pain relief. For starters, simple changes in your diet can help prevent gout flares. Because purine rich foods (like beer and greasy, fried foods) increase uric acid concentration in your body. You can also prevent flares with regular exercise and by keeping a healthy weight. That goes along with any prescribed medications your doctor recommends. 
 

Bunions

Some bunions form over the baby toe (bunionettes or tailor's bunions). But most bunions appear as large bumps beneath the big toe joint. While it looks like a bump outside your skin, it's actually a sign of abnormal bone growth inside your foot. As the bone changes direction, your big toe begins to move inwards towards the other toes. And that makes your feet look wider.  

You can develop bunions for any number of reasons. A lot of it has to do with heredity. If your parents and grandparents had bunions, chances are, you'll be more likely to get one too. An old injury could also affect the way your bones grow, which may lead to bunion development. Also, your body design can place forces on your feet that affect your mechanical makeup. In other words, sometimes you can't do anything about developing bunions. 

Other times, your choices will affect bunion development. I'm really talking about your shoe choices. Keep wearing pointy-toed shoes, especially with high-heels, and your bunion risk will rise. 

No matter why you get them, we can help you find bunion relief. And we can use minimally invasive treatment methods. Assuming you seek early treatment, that is. When your bunions are still small, I can treat them with icing, padding, and strapping. That will help limit that uncomfortable rubbing against your shoes. I can also get you fitted for custom orthotics. They can help correct biomechanical issues that may contribute to bunion growth. 

Keep in mind: if you wait too long, and your bunions are very large, surgery may your best treatment option. If that's the case, we will discuss your treatment plan. Our goal is to make sure your recovery is as smooth and free of pain as possible. 

Bunions and tailor's bunion cause pain in foot

Other Forms of Arthritis

We already discussed how gout can be a major pain in your toe. And now we have to look at other forms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis. Because you have so many joints in your foot, it's very vulnerable to this condition. And the base of your big toe is the most common place to get foot arthritis.

With osteoarthritis, you'll see symptoms like inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Especially when you push off the ground. But, unlike gout symptoms, osteoarthritis usually comes on slowly. Then it gets worse as the days and weeks progress. Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. But we can manage your discomfort and provide pain relief. Heat, ice and, in most case, over-the-counter medications help a lot.

Ingrown toenail

Here again, we see some common symptoms, like swelling, pain, and redness. The same things you notice with other causes of pain in your big toe. But there are some noticable distinctions. When an ingrown toenail is the problem, symptoms will likely be clustered in and around your nail bed. They won't be lower down, by your big toe joint. Also, because your nail can cut your skin as it digs in due to redirected growth, it may cause infection in the area. So, unlike other causes of pain in your foot, you're more likely to develop pus when you have an ingrown toenail. 

You may be pre-disposed to ingrown toenails. Especially if you've sustained past injuries to the area. Careful nail trimming can help prevent this problem. Unless you've already got an ingrown nail, which you can't try to treat yourself at home. "Bathroom surgery" for your nails only leaves you more vulnerable to infection. So, if your nail is cutting into your skin, come into my podiatry practice. I can numb and sterilize your toenail area. Then, I'll correct the problem with a quick and painless procedure. 

 

Turf toe

Careful foot exams determines the exact cause of your toe pain


This sports-related foot injury produces symptoms like pain on the bottom of your big toe. It also causes inflammation and tenderness. Common in football and soccer players, it’s caused by strain. And it's often the result of hyperextension. (When your big toe bends too far back, causing damage to the ligament). Like the kind you’d see if your toe hit articficial turf. Typically, the best remedy for this condition is rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. We may also explore proper footwear choices and preventative training techniques. 

 

Sesamoiditis 

While less common, I do see this condition pop up from time to time. Especially with some of my shoe-loving female patients. You see, underneath the big toe, you have two smaller bones that support your big toe's mobility. When you balance on your toes, these bones become inflamed. (High-heels can do this.) And then you experience toe pain. As you may imagine, we can help you find pain relief by changing your footwear. We can also explore other lifestyle changes, as well as temporary anti-inflammatory treatments. 

Basically, there are a whole lot of reasons why you might have foot pain that manifests in your big toe. And, while their symptoms look similar, their causes (and treatments) are very different. Why ldo the guessing yourself, and delay or prevent your easy resolution? Instead, schedule a consultation with Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider. That way you can get the diagnosis and treatment protocol you need. And experience lasting pain relief in your big toe.

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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