What are Common Causes of Toe Joint Pain?

Katie McFarlin

Toe joint pain is a common occurrence and there are many different causes. The big toe is the most commonly affected, but any toe can experience joint pain. While actual injury is a common cause for toe joint pain, other reasons for a toe joint to hurt range from arthritis to gout to bunions.

Toe joint pain can be caused by bunions.
Toe joint pain can be caused by bunions.

Arthritis is one of the most common causes of toe joint pain. There are actually two forms of arthritis that can affect the feet. Osteoarthritis occurs as joints age and may not be present in both feet. Rheumatoid arthritis involves actual inflammation of the joint and is typically present in both feet.

Gout is a common cause of toe joint pain.
Gout is a common cause of toe joint pain.

Arthritis can cause swelling and pain within the joint, particularly after long periods of inactivity. An arthritic joint will typically ache if the weather turns cold or humid, and walking may become difficult. Arthritis is typically treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. In severe cases, a doctor may prescribe more powerful pain medication and steroidal drugs to reduce the inflammation. While there is no cure for arthritis, it can be managed with pain killers, heat and resting the joint.

Gout is another common reason for toe joint pain, especially in the big toe. It is caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood stream. This excess acid forms crystals that accumulate around the joint, causing inflammation and pain. Gout symptoms include swelling and serious pain in the joint. It may be impossible to bend the joint because of the pain, and the swelling may be so severe that normal footwear will not fit.

Gout is typically treated with medications that reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood stream. A doctor may also recommend dietary changes that include eating less red meat and less cured meat, both of which can cause an increase in uric acid. In addition, the patient may need to drink more water to flush the uric acid from his joints.

Hallux valgus, or bunions, typically affects the big toe or the little toe on the foot. These painful protrusions of bone can cause swelling and pain, and may actually cause the toe to bend. Symptoms of bunions include misshapen toes and pain, particularly when wearing footwear. Severe cases of bunions typically require surgery to shave off the bony protrusion and reduce the deformity of the joint. In mild cases, a doctor may simply recommend over-the-counter pain medication.

Toe joint pain caused by a sprain may be treated with bandaging.
Toe joint pain caused by a sprain may be treated with bandaging.

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