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What Causes Toe Inflammation?

By Nya Bruce
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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When inflammation occurs in the toes it can be caused by a number of conditions, such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, bunions, bursitis, or ingrown toenails. Toe inflammation is typically a protective measure that the body takes in reaction to injury or the presence of bacteria. This is generally a normal occurrence and it is a part of the natural way that the body heals. It may also be incorrectly triggered by certain conditions or diseases.

Gout, which is a type of arthritic condition, is one of the more common causes of toe inflammation. Symptoms of gout often affect the big toe, in which case it may be referred to as podagra. The inflammation is a result of excess uric acid building up in the toe joint. Inflammation that is caused by gout is often seen in people who are overweight, diabetic, have kidney disease, or that are taking certain medications.

Toe inflammation may also be caused by the autoimmune disease known as rheumatoid arthritis. For people with this condition, their body's immune system attacks tissue that is healthy as opposed to responding to injury or bacteria. When this occurs at the toe joints, the result is inflammation. Eventually this will cause other toe problems that can lead to changes that affect a person's ability to walk and wear most types of shoes.

Wearing too tight or narrow shoes can result in the formation of a bony "bump" at the base joint of the big toe. This bump, or protrusion, forms as the big toe is pushed inward and is forced to overlap the toe beside it. As a result, this often causes toe inflammation and pain to occur.

Between the joints and tendons, there are fluid-filled sacs that can become inflamed after overuse or excess friction. These sacs are called bursae and they frequently occur at the base of the big toe, although they can occur at any of the toe joints. When the bursae in the toes becomes inflamed the toes will likely become inflamed as well. This condition is called bursitis and it frequently occurs alongside bunions due to the friction of the protruding bone rubbing against the shoe.

If toe inflammation occurs around the nail of a toe, an ingrown toenail may be the cause. An ingrown toenail is a nail whose edge has begun to grow into the skin of the toe. It typically occurs when nails are clipped too short, however wearing shoes that do not fit properly may also result in ingrown nails and painful inflammation. Fractured or broken toes are another cause of toe inflammation. This type of toe injury often occurs when someone stubs a toe against a hard object, and it may occur while playing sports.

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Discussion Comments

By Primemobi — On Jan 02, 2014

Ingrown toenails can be prevented by clipping the nail straight across instead of rounded. Ingrown toenails are extremely painful and can result in a trip to a professional to have the offending nail cut out. I once had an ingrown toenail but was thankfully able to take care of it myself. It affects your ability to walk or even wear shoes. If you experience tenderness and/or redness and swelling around the toenail edges, take care of it immediately. An ingrown toenail can quickly get out of hand.

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