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What Is a Foot Neuroma?
A foot neuroma is the thickening, inflammation or enlargement of the nerve located between the bones of the toes. It is often called intermetatarsal neuroma or Morton’s neuroma.
Facts about foot neuroma
The thickening of the nerve that causes a foot neuroma often occurs between the bones of the third and fourth toes, but it can also form between the second and third toes. It is caused by irritation or compression of the nerve, probably when the metatarsal bones press against the nerves in the thin space between the toes.
If left untreated, a foot neuroma can lead to sharp, shooting or burning pain that tends to worsen over time. The pain is usually aggravated when the person walks or stands on the ball of the foot or puts on high-heeled shoes. The pain can extend to the nearby toes and make them feel all bunched up.
Risk factors of foot neuroma
People with naturally flat feet, high arches or awkwardly positioned toes are more likely to develop Morton’s neuroma. This may be a result of the instability around the joints of the toe. Specific conditions such as bunions or hammertoes have also been linked with foot neuroma. Some sports that require running, such as tennis, tend to exert excess pressure on the ball of the foot, thus increasing the risk of the condition. It could also occur due to injury or trauma to the foot.
While the precise cause of the condition is unknown, all the signs point at the choice of footwear. Wearing high heels (heels that are over two inches high) can put additional pressure on the balls of the feet. Tight-fitting or pointed-toed shoes may squeeze the toes or restrict their movement.
Signs that you may have the condition include:
- Pain in the forefoot, inside the toes
- Sharp or stinging pain between the toes when walking or standing
- Swelling or inflammation between the toes.
- Tingling sensation in the feel and numbness
- Feeling that there is a stone or marble beneath the ball of the foot.
You need to visit the doctor or a podiatrist (foot doctor) if you feel persistent pain or sensation that is preventing you from walking normally. The physician will examine your feet and detect the location of the pain by placing pressure on the spaces between the toe bones.
The doctor may request X-ray scans to eliminate the chances of other conditions that can cause foot pain, such as arthritis or stress fractures. The X-ray alone will not reveal the presence of neuroma, which means an ultrasound scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test may be necessary to ensure a correct diagnosis.
Treating foot neuroma may be as simple as getting better shoes, resting the feet or receiving a cortisone injection. Placing ice packs on the toes may also help relieve the pain. If simple treatments are not effective, surgery may be necessary.
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