Fifth-Toe Deformities Clinical Presentation

Updated: May 02, 2016
  • Author: Stephen M Schroeder, DPM, FACFAS; Chief Editor: Vinod K Panchbhavi, MD, FACS  more...
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Presentation

History and Physical Examination

The simplest of the fifth-toe deformities are the hard corn (heloma durum) and the soft corn (heloma molle). Both lesions are epidermal hyperkeratoses resulting from frictional or pressure irritation. They develop over bony prominences, such as enlarged phalangeal condyles or exostosis.

Hard corns

Hard corns result from intrinsic pressure from a bony prominence combined with extrinsic pressure (typically in the form of footwear irritation) over the exposed fifth toe. The most common site is the dorsal lateral aspect of the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIPJ), but corns can also occur in the same location over the distal interphalangeal joint (DIPJ) (see the image below). [4]

Fifth-toe deformities. Example of a hard corn. The Fifth-toe deformities. Example of a hard corn. They commonly occur on the dorsal lateral aspect of the proximal interphalangeal joint, but they can also occur in the same location over the distal interphalangeal joint.

The corn is typically associated with a hammertoe deformity (dorsiflexion contracture at the metatarsophalangeal joint [MTPJ] and plantarflexion contracture at the PIPJ) that may have a varus rotational contracture. This makes the dorsal lateral aspect of the PIPJ more prominent and susceptible to footwear irritation. The corn can be superficial or deeply seeded; the latter is more painful. Additionally, constant pressure may cause a painful bursa to develop deep in the lesion, leading to nerve entrapment and increased pain.

In the neuropathic population, hard corns that go untreated can develop into ulcerations that lead to soft-tissue and bone infection.

Soft corns

Soft corns develop between adjacent toes. Intrinsic pressure develops between adjacent condyles of the lateral fourth PIPJ abutting the medial fifth DIPJ or between adjacent condyles the lateral fourth MTPJ abutting the medial fifth PIPJ. The lesions can develop on the skin at the lateral fourth PIPJ, the medial fifth DIPJ, the medial fifth PIPJ, or deep in the web space (see the image below).

Fifth-toe deformities. Example of a soft corn deep Fifth-toe deformities. Example of a soft corn deep in the web space. Intrinsic pressure develops between adjacent condyles of the lateral fourth proximal interphalangeal joint abutting the medial fifth distal interphalangeal joint, or the lateral fourth metatarsophalangeal joint abutting the medial fifth proximal interphalangeal joint. The lesions can develop on the skin over the lateral fourth proximal interphalangeal joint, medial fifth distal interphalangeal joint, medial fifth proximal interphalangeal joint, or deep in the web space.

Kissing corns

Kissing corns are two calluses rubbing against each other on adjacent toes (see the first and second images below). Kissing corns are usually painful when the toes are squeezed together. Maceration is often noted in the web space and may contribute to the development of kissing corns (see the third and fourth images below). When they occur, other common problems, such as fungal infections or verruca, need to be ruled out. If left untreated, these lesions may also develop into ulcerations in patients with neuropathy.

Fifth-toe deformities. This Image and the one belo Fifth-toe deformities. This Image and the one below are examples of kissing corns. They are 2 calluses that rub against each other on adjacent toes and are usually painful when squeezed together.
Fifth-toe deformities. Example of a kissing corn. Fifth-toe deformities. Example of a kissing corn. These corns are 2 calluses that rub against each other on adjacent toes and are usually painful when squeezed together.
Fifth-toe deformities. This Image and the one belo Fifth-toe deformities. This Image and the one below are further examples of kissing corns. Maceration is often noted in the web space and may contribute to their development. When they occur, other common problems, such as fungal infections or verruca, need to be ruled out. These lesions may develop into ulcerations in the neuropathic population if untreated, as is seen in this case.
Fifth-toe deformities. Example of kissing corns. M Fifth-toe deformities. Example of kissing corns. Maceration is often noted in the web space and may contribute to their development. When they occur, other common problems, such as fungal infections or verruca, need to be excluded. These lesions may develop into ulcerations in the neuropathic population if untreated, as is seen in this case.

Hammertoe, [5, 6, 2] claw-toe, [7] and cock-up deformities are all variations of the same problem. [8] The presence of a dorsiflexion contracture at the MTPJ and a plantarflexion contracture at the PIPJ is constant among the three (see the image below). The claw-toe deformity has the addition of a plantarflexion contracture at the DIPJ. The term cock-up deformity is typically used to describe a severe hammertoe, in which the proximal phalanx articulates at a nearly 90° angle to the fifth metatarsal and may be fixed in that position. A cock-up deformity can also be associated with plantar-plate ruptures or adhesions between the plantar MTPJ capsule and the metatarsal head.

Fifth-toe deformities. Example of a hammertoe with Fifth-toe deformities. Example of a hammertoe with a dorsiflexion contracture at the metatarsophalangeal joint and plantarflexion contracture at the proximal interphalangeal joint. Note the irritated skin secondary to shoe pressure.

Contractures can develop for several reasons; however, they most frequently occur because of mechanical imbalances. The intrinsic foot musculature fails to stabilize the fifth toe at the MTPJ, the PIPJ, and the DIPJ, allowing the more powerful extrinsic flexors and extensors to act unchecked. This eventually leads to the deformities described above.

Unlike the other conditions mentioned, overlapping and underlapping fifth toes are usually congenital deformities. The overlapping fifth toe is a common familial deformity with equal sex predilection and usually presents bilaterally (see the images below). About half of patients become symptomatic because of pressure from footwear against the dorsal aspect of the toe and nail. The toe is dorsally hyperextended at the MTPJ with a varus rotation and medial deviation onto the top of the fourth digit.

Fifth-toe deformities. This Image and the one belo Fifth-toe deformities. This Image and the one below represent an overlapping fifth toe. It is dorsally hyperextended at the metatarsophalangeal joint with a varus rotation and medial deviation onto the top of the fourth digit. Contractures develop dorsomedially at the metatarsophalangeal joint and eventually form in the extensor digitorum longus tendon and the dorsomedial skin overlying the metatarsophalangeal joint.
Fifth-toe deformities. Overlapping fifth toe. It i Fifth-toe deformities. Overlapping fifth toe. It is dorsally hyperextended at the metatarsophalangeal joint with a varus rotation and medial deviation onto the top of the fourth digit. Contractures develop dorsomedially at the metatarsophalangeal joint and eventually form in the extensor digitorum longus tendon and the dorsomedial skin overlying the metatarsophalangeal joint.

Contractures develop dorsomedially at the MTPJ and eventually form in the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) tendon and the dorsomedial skin overlying the MTPJ.

The underlapping fifth toe is another common congenital deformity, often referred to as curly toe or congenital varus toe (see the images below). This deformity may also occur bilaterally and has a high familial prevalence. The toe is plantarflexed at the MTPJ, rotated into a varus position, and positioned under the fourth digit. A contracture typically occurs at the plantar-medial MTPJ capsule and flexor digitorum longus (FDL) tendon. These are paired with an elongated EDL and an attenuated dorsal capsule. Constant pressure at the lateral nail and digital skin creates pain.

Fifth-toe deformities. This image and the one belo Fifth-toe deformities. This image and the one below are examples of an underlapping fifth toe, or curly toe. It is plantarflexed at the metatarsophalangeal joint, rotated into a varus position, and positioned under the fourth digit. A contracture typically occurs at the plantar-medial metatarsophalangeal joint capsule and flexor digitorum longus tendon.
Fifth-toe deformities. Underlapping fifth toe, or Fifth-toe deformities. Underlapping fifth toe, or curly toe. It is plantarflexed at the metatarsophalangeal joint, rotated into a varus position, and positioned under the fourth digit. A contracture typically occurs at the plantar-medial metatarsophalangeal joint capsule and flexor digitorum longus tendon.