Think You Have a Fractured Toe? Here's What Could Happen If You Don't Get It Checked Out

If you stubbed your toe and felt a snap, you may wonder if it’s broken, and you might think that the “wait and see” approach is the best course of action. However, a fracture that goes undetected and untreated can lead to complications.

While not an emergency, it is vital that you get your toe checked out. Dr. Thomas Rambacher and the team at Podiatry Hotline Inc. recommend seeking treatment of your toe injury to ensure a swift recovery and to prevent those potential problems.

When to suspect that your toe is fractured

Whether you’ve stubbed your toe or injured it playing sports, there are a few obvious signs that you’ve suffered a fracture. Look for discoloration, pain, and swelling. While it’s likely to hurt immediately, it can take a few days for the color to change and swelling to appear.

If you’re certain your toe is fractured or you simply want peace of mind, your Dr. Rambacher can provide a full assessment and order X-rays to make the right diagnosis.

A fractured toe that’s left untreated can lead to infection

When it comes to broken toes, infection risk usually happens if the skin on the affected toe is cut or punctured at the time of the injury. You’re at increased risk of developing a bone infection if you have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or a compromised or weakened immune system.

Symptoms that suggest your toe has developed a bone infection include:

When dealt with quickly, a bone infection can be treated with antibiotics. If left too long, the infection can restrict blood circulation, leading to bone death of that toe, septic arthritis, and an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Osteoarthritis can develop from an untreated toe fracture

Osteoarthritis typically develops from wear and tear of your joints over time, but walking on a fractured toe can speed up this process — although it may still take months, or even years, for arthritis to develop.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis — pain, and stiffness in the toe, swelling in the joint and problems walking or playing sports — can be difficult to live with. It’s not unusual for a bone spur to develop at the affected toe. This is a bony protrusion that can be painful, particularly when wearing shoes.

Treatment prevents complications

Once Dr. Rambacher has diagnosed your toe fracture, you have a few treatment options depending on the severity of the injury. Over-the-counter pain medication and immobilization of the toe is often sufficient for small toe breaks and simple fractures. Dr. Rambacher can immobilize the toe by carefully buddy taping it to the toe next to it. A cast usually is not required.

With more complex fractures, Dr. Rambacher may have to manipulate the pieces of bone back together again in a technique called reduction. This procedure is done under local anesthetic, so your toe is numb. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to fix a severe fracture using pins and plates to repair the bone and position the toe with the correct alignment for healing.

If you suspect that you have a broken toe, or if you’ve fractured a toe previously and didn’t get it checked out, don’t hesitate to book a consultation with Dr. Rambacher today.

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