Welcome to Buoy Health

Learn about your swollen toes, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen toes from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Swollen Toes Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen toes.

Take a quiz
Your Swollen Toes May Also be Known as:
Puffy toe
Toe feels puffy
Toe feels swollen
Toe is puffy
Toe is swollen
Toe puffiness
Toe swelling

Swollen Toes Symptoms

Swelling is the result of fluid buildup that gets trapped in your body's tissues. Most people first notice swelling because the affected body part may appear larger than normal.

Often, a swollen toe can be easily identified by comparing its size to the size of your other toes; however, if multiple toes are affected, the swelling may not be visibly obvious and difficult to discern. People with swollen toes may also experience other symptoms in addition to the swelling.

These symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling in the foot or ankle
  • Stretched or shiny skin
  • Skin that dimples or pits after pressing on the affected area for a few seconds
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion
  • Warmth or redness of the affected area
  • Itching, stinging and burning between the toes or soles of the feet

If you notice any of these swollen toes symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor promptly in order to follow up on your symptoms, get a diagnosis and receive appropriate care.

Swollen Toes Causes Overview

Any condition that causes accumulation of fluid in the tissues of your toes and feet will cause swelling. Swelling in the toes can have numerous triggers, and though swollen toes may not seem serious initially, without prompt medical follow-up your swollen toes symptoms could worsen.

Inflammatory causes:

  • Infection: The feet and toes are particularly susceptible to infection. Walking around barefoot puts the toes in direct contact with various pathogens; but on the other hand, tight, close-toed shoes create a damp, sweaty environment that also allows bacteria to grow. If bacteria or fungi enter the toes via a cut or other puncture, the resulting infection will cause entrance of fluids into the tissues that result in swelling and inflammation.
  • Rheumatologic: This category includes inflammatory conditions involving the body's tissues and joints. Conditions such as arthritis and gout cause inflammation that easily brings fluid into the tissues leading to swelling, redness and tenderness of the joints, especially the toes.

Systemic causes:

  • Conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease that cause dysregulation in multiple parts of the body often affect the feet. These systemic conditions often cause lack of oxygen delivery to the feet and nerve damage (neuropathy) leaving the feet with decreased sensation. People with these conditions do not properly perceive injury. As a result, small injuries can quickly worsen leading to infection and swelling of the toes and feet.

Environmental causes:

  • Trauma: Trauma to the toe that causes swelling can include simple mishaps such as jamming the foot on a wall or table to serious accidents that result in broken bones. Regardless of the cause, direct trauma to the toes will cause swelling.
  • Hygiene: The toenails are an often-ignored body part, but improper attention can lead to toe swelling. Long or curved nails can grow into the flesh of the toe resulting in redness, pain and swelling. Sometimes the ingrown toenail can also cause infection, worsening the problem.
  • Weather: Sometimes extremely cold weather can trigger swelling in people with pre-existing conditions. Take note of any patterns in your toe swelling especially regarding the weather.

Top 7 Swollen Toes Causes

  1. 1.Gout

    Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint. The big toe is often affected.

    You should see a healthcare professional to ensure uric acid crystals have not accumulated in the joint. A physician can give you a shot of corticosteroids or prescribe a daily medication to prevent gout attacks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen toes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Ingrown Toenail

    Ingrown toenails are a common condition. This occurs when the nail grows into the soft skin of the toe, causing pain, redness, swelling, and in rare cases, infection.

    You can safely treat this condition at home. Soak the foot for 15 to 20 minutes at least three times a day. After the soak, place cotton or dental floss under the nail to guide it to grow above rather than into the skin. If infection is suspected, an over the counter antibiotic cream should be applied.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    toe pain, big toe pain, toenail pain, swollen toes, swelling of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th toe
    Symptoms that always occur with ingrown toenail:
    ingrown nail, toe pain
    Symptoms that never occur with ingrown toenail:
    pain between the 2nd and 3rd toe, pain in both feet, pain in the front half of the foot, heel pain, pain in the middle of the foot, foot pain that shoots to the toes, pain in one foot, pain in the outside of the foot
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Toe Bruise

    Toe contusion (bruise) is the damage of the blood vessels (veins and capillaries) that return blood from your tissues back to the heart. The blood pools there and turns blue or purple. It's typically caused by a bump, hit, or fall.

    You can safely treat this at home with rest (no exercise), ice (10-20 minutes at a time), compression (via tape or a wrap), and elevation (putting your feet up. Over-the-counter pain medications can also be used if the pain is really bothering you.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant foot pain, toe injury, toe pain from an injury, swollen toes, toe bruise(s)
    Symptoms that always occur with toe bruise:
    toe pain from an injury, toe injury, constant foot pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

    Swollen Toes Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen toes.

    Take a quiz
  4. 4.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    You should visit your primary care physician to manage this disease as there are many treatment options. A treatment plan will often consist of therapy (physical, occupational, massage), patient education, exercise and rest, devices to protect joints, medicine and/or surgery.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    joint pain, lower back pain, shoulder pain, upper back pain, joint stiffness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Mild Frostbite of the Lower Leg

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    Those with suspected frostbite should have wet clothing removed. Rubbing affected areas worsens damage to the tissue. You should go to the ER by car, immediately. If rewarming can occur without chance of refreezing, it can be tried in the field. There, the doctors will guide you in gently re-warming the wounded area in 98-102F (37C-39C) water. Further, ibuprofen, antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and possibly surgery will be done to treat the pain and dead tissue. IV fluids will also be started. Hydrotherapy will be done daily to help with the wounded area.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot numbness, swollen foot, limping, toe numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with mild frostbite of the lower leg:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  6. 6.Severe Frostbite of the Lower Limbs

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    Those with suspected frostbite should have wet clothing removed. Rubbing affected areas worsens damage to the tissue. You should go to the ER by car, immediately. If rewarming can occur without chance of refreezing, it can be tried in the field. There, the doctors will guide you in gently re-warming the wounded area in 98-102F (37C-39C) water. Further, ibuprofen, antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and possibly surgery will be done to treat the pain and dead tissue. IV fluids will also be started. Hydrotherapy will be done daily to help with the wounded area.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot numbness, swollen foot, limping, toe numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with severe frostbite of the lower limbs:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  7. 7.Frostnip of the Lower Limbs

    Frostnip is damage of the outermost layers of the skin caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports.

    Those with suspected frostnip should have wet clothing removed. Rubbing affected areas worsens damage to the tissue. You should go to an urgent care. If rewarming can occur without chance of refreezing, it can be tried in the field. At urgent care, the doctors will guide you in gently re-warming the wounded area in 98-102F (37C-39C) water. Further, ibuprofen, antibiotics, and a tetanus shot may be necessary

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot numbness, swollen foot, limping, toe numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with frostnip of the lower limbs:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Swollen Toes Treatments and Relief

There are multiple lifestyle changes you can add to your current routine in order to prevent swollen toes symptoms.

  • Keep your toenails a reasonable length.
  • Do not wear shoes that are too tight. The feet tend to swell throughout the day, so it is best to purchase new shoes at the day's end.
  • In order to prevent infection, do not walk around public bathrooms, showers or swimming pools with bare feet.

If you notice swollen toes after trauma such as jamming or hitting your foot:

  • Rest, Ice and Elevate: Put an ice pack on your toes every 15 minutes. Maintain your foot elevated and still to minimize further irritation and prevent continued fluid accumulation in your tissues.
  • Protect: If the pain and swelling persists, you can protect the affected toes from further trauma by attaching them to adjacent toes using tape or a self-adhesive wrap. The affected toes will be less likely to move which prevents further inflammation and fluid accumulation.

If your swollen toes symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time and worsen despite not seeming related to a traumatic event, make an appointment with your doctor.

Depending on the swollen toes cause your doctor may initiate:

  • Antibiotics: Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics if your swollen toes are due to a fungal or bacterial infection to combat the infection and lessen the inflammatory response.
  • Rheumatologic Medications: There are many different types of medications that combat rheumatologic conditions that may be causing your swollen toes.
  • Diagnostic Testing: If your swollen toes are due to a systemic cause, your doctor will do the appropriate diagnostics test and treat your condition holistically.

Seek medical care immediately if:

  • Your toes appear deformed.
  • You cannot straighten your toes.
  • Swelling and pain increases significantly and persists.
  • The toe becomes numb and turns white or pink.

These symptoms may be related to a more serious cause such as a fracture resulting in decreased blood flow to the toes and/or feet.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Toes

  • Q.Is your foot swelling getting better or worse?
  • Q.How swollen is your foot?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.Is the pain affecting:

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our swollen toes symptom checker.

Take a quiz

Swollen Toes Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen toes have also experienced:

    • 13% Toe Pain
    • 8% Big Toe Pain
    • 6% Toe Bruise(s)
  • People who have experienced swollen toes had symptoms persist for:

    • 29% Less Than a Day
    • 26% Less Than a Week
    • 23% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen toes were most often matched with:

    • 43% Gout
    • 10% Toe Bruise
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Swollen Toes Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen toes.

Take a quiz