By Dr. Mark Whitesides

If you have ever injured your toe and felt (or heard!) a snap, you may have wondered if your toe was broken! Ouch! You might have been given the conventional advice that “there is nothing you can do for a broken toe” and decided that your injured toe was not a big deal. Often, folks decide that a “wait and see” approach is the best course of action.

However, a toe fracture that goes undetected and untreated can lead to complications. You may have significant soft tissue injuries or a fracture of a larger bone further up in your foot. When it comes to broken toes, significant infection risk happens if the skin on the affected toe is cut or punctured. This called an open fracture and is considered a medical emergency. Also, arthritis can develop from an untreated fracture that involves a joint.

Whether you’ve “stubbed” your toe or had some other traumatic injury, there are some signs that you’ve suffered a fracture. While it’s likely to hurt immediately, it can take a few days for the color to change and swelling to appear. Keep your eye out for discoloration, pain, and swelling.

Our podiatric physicians are specialists in identifying and treating injuries of the foot. Onsite X-rays and a thorough examination of the injured area will be performed.

If we diagnose a toe fracture, there are 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 treatment of straightforward fractures. We 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, we may have to manipulate the pieces of bone back together again in a technique called closed reduction. This procedure is done in our office under local anesthetic, so your toe is numb. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to fix a severe fracture to repair the bone and position the toe with the correct alignment for healing.

It is very important that all foot injuries are examined by a foot and ankle specialist, including those that involve your toes. The doctors at Southwest Austin Foot and Ankle Clinic recommend seeking immediate evaluation to ensure a swift recovery and to prevent potential complications. If you suspect that you have a broken toe, or if you’ve fractured a toe previously and didn’t get it evaluated, book a consultation with us today.