Pain affecting the toes can be caused by a variety of different injuries and conditions, including arthritis of the feet, ingrown toenails, deformities affecting the toes, toe sprains and bone fractures. Each of these conditions has different considerations for treatment of toe pain.
There are several different varieties of arthritis that can cause pain in the toes and feet. Osteoarthritis, caused by mechanical damage over time, is usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and home remedies such as applying ice to the affected foot several times each day. Additional medical treatments, such as the use of corticosteroids or surgical procedures, may be necessary in severe cases. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition, has similar treatment procedures, but drugs called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs to control the autoimmune response are often prescribed. Arthritis of the toes caused by gout is treated similarly to other types of arthritis, but special medications to reduce uric acid buildup in the joints are sometimes used.
Ingrown toenails are usually treated at home. Soaking the affected toe in warm water several times each day and placing a small wedge of cotton or gauze between the edge of the toenail and the skin can help the toenail from digging into the skin. If the surrounding looks infected, see your doctor, as additional treatment such as antibiotics or removal of part of the toenail may be necessary.
Toe deformities can cause toe pain, especially when wearing shoes. Bunions are treated by wearing footwear that will not make the condition worse. Good footwear to use includes shoes with a wide toe space and shoes fitted with padding made for people with bunions. These devices can be purchased at most drug stores. Extremely painful, large bunions may be treated with surgery. Hammer toes, claw toes and mallet toes can also be helped by wearing comfortable footwear with a large amount of toe space. Surgery is not usually used for these toe deformities, but it is an option in some cases.
If a toe is sprained or broken, it is helpful to rest, ice, and elevate the injury. Taking NSAIDs is also helpful to reduce inflammation. Minor fractures of a toe may not require additional medical treatment, but serious fractures may require surgery or immobilization of the foot with a cast or splint. Sprains will usually heal on their own. Sesamoid fractures can be treated in a similar manner to sprains and toe fractures. With any of these injuries, it is helpful to see a doctor to determine the type and extent of the injury and the amount of treatment that will be necessary for proper healing of the injury.