By: Dr. Kim L. Dao

A common condition that can affect the feet is a neuroma. What is a neuroma? It is a growth of nerve tissue located at the ball of the foot. Although it can occur between any of the toes, it typically presents in the space between the 3rd and 4th toes. It is common enough that it has its own name: Morton’s neuroma. This condition usually presents as pain, radiating burning or tingling, or at worst, even numbness. These symptoms can be aggravated with walking or any weight bearing activity. The repetitive compression; and therefore, irritation to the nerve causes inflammation, and over time cause thickening of the nerve tissue itself until it becomes a benign nerve tumor.

Skin mole on a human foot

What causes a neuroma to form? As discussed, a neuroma forms when there has been repetitive compression and irritation to the nerve, and this can stem from trauma, biomechanical abnormalities such as high or low foot arch that can lead to instability, and poor footwear such as high heels and narrow sneakers. Knowing what causes or aggravates the symptoms can allow you to begin the process of treating it, which is best started with an appointment to see your podiatrist at the first sign of pain.

During your evaluation, imaging may be taken to see if there are underlying biomechanical abnormalities that cannot be seen externally. At times, an MRI may be needed to diagnose a neuroma. But once diagnosed, treatment can range from conservative to surgical. Conservative treatment should be considered first and include: padding and taping of the foot to allow temporary stability. Success with this can lead to orthotics, over-the –counter or custom made. These allow for proper alignment and support of the foot, particularly the arch, allowing stability and controlled foot function with weight bearing activities. Oral anti-inflammatory medication, as well as cortisone steroid injections can be implemented to ease acute neuroma pain and inflammation. When all of the above fails, surgery may be considered. The outpatient procedure entails removal of the enlarged nerve tumor. Recovery is dependent on the patient, though usually lasts a few weeks.

See one of our podiatrists at Southwest Austin Foot and Ankle Clinic for an evaluation if you have symptoms of a neuroma, and we’ll create a treatment plan to begin the process of eliminating the pain!