If you are experiencing a stabbing pain, burning, or numbness in the toes, you may be suffering from a neuroma.
A neuroma is a swelling and thickening of nerve
tissue caused by pressure or trauma. The most common type of neuroma
affecting the feet is Morton's neuroma which develops in the area
between the third and fourth toes. Fortunately, neuromas are benign and
Causes of a neuroma
Anything that irritates or compresses a nerve in the
feet can cause neuromas. Compression in a confined space leads to
enlargement of the nerve, which can eventually cause permanent nerve
High heels and narrow toe boxes
Neuromas are more common in women than men, largely because one of
the most common causes of neuromas is poorly fitting shoes. Wearing
high-heeled shoes or any type of shoe that has a tapered or narrowed toe
box can force the toes together, compressing the nerves on all sides.
Abnormal foot structure
Abnormal foot structure can also lead to the development of
neuromas. People with bunions, flat feet, and hammertoes are all at a
higher risk of developing neuromas.
Injury or trauma
Trauma may also lead to neuromas. Injury from a puncture wound,
laceration, or the cutting of a nerve during foot surgery can all damage
the nerves, resulting in the development of a neuroma.
The most common symptom of a neuroma is localized
pain where the nerve damage is occurring. If you have Morton's neuroma,
the pain will occur in the space between the third and fourth toes. You
may also experience the following in the affected area:
Symptoms associated with neuromas will appear
gradually. At first, the pain may only be aggravated by wearing narrow
or high-heeled shoes. The pain may go away after you remove your shoes
and massage the foot. Over time, pain will become more intense and can
persist for days, even weeks, without abating.
Neuromas will respond to treatment if detected early. Mild to moderate neuromas can be treated with the following:
Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain.
Changes in shoe wear (avoid high heels and shoes with a narrow toe box).
Cortisone injections (to shrink swelling of the nerves).
Metatarsal pads (to take pressure off the nerves).
Alcohol injections to desensitize the nerve.
If conservative treatment does not relieve symptoms,
surgery may be necessary. Surgery can involve cutting the
intermetatarsal ligament or removing the thickened nerve.
Your physician will be able to recommend a long-term treatment plan to keep neuroma symptoms from returning.