Big toe arthritis

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Download Info Sheet

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis involving wearing of the cartilage between bones. The big toe or “hallux” is a common site of osteoarthritis in the foot. It generally starts slow, but worsens over time.

Symptoms

Arthritis causes inflammation which may present as swelling and pain around the big toe. The toe may also have restricted upward movement cause by secondary bone spurs or loss of joint cartilage. Other symptoms may include: tenderness, achiness and difficulty walking.

Causes

You are more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you have a family history of it. The risk of OA increases as you get older due to normal wear and tear on the big toe. Common causes may include: trauma, excessive foot pronation (rolling in) and prolonged weight bearing.

Treatment

Osteoarthritis is progressive and permanent. At present, little can be done to ‘undo’ damage at the big toe. X-rays may help grade the severity of the damage. Your podiatrist will assess the need for an x-ray.

Short term treatment may consist of the following:
• Avoidance of aggravating activity and running of soft surfaces
• Shoes with a stiff or rocker bottom sole

Podiatry treatment may consist of:
• Strapping the toe to reduce movement where required
• Splints or braces
• Custom made orthotics to control foot pronation and reduce load on the big toe
• Anti-inflammatory medication
• Cortisone injections into the joint to reduce inflammtion