Read below about 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.

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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. [10]

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. [7]

These symptoms may include:

  • Pain [7]
  • Swelling in the foot or ankle [11]
  • Stretched or shiny skin [10]
  • Skin that dimples or pits after pressing on the affected area for a few seconds [10]
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion [10]
  • Warmth or redness of the affected area [2]
  • Itching, stinging and burning between the toes or soles of the feet [8]

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. [8]

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 swoll7en toes symptoms could worsen. [10]

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. [1,2,3]
  • 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. [2]

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. [5,6]

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. [7]
  • 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. [8]
  • 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. [9]

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Swollen Toes

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced swollen toes. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  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.

    With proper medical attention, relief is possible within the first 24 hours of treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen toes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Nail Infection (Paronychia)

    Paronychia is an infection of the nail folds, typically caused by Staph. Aureus. Or a fungus.

    Great prognosis. Recovery in the next two weeks

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous finger pain, fingernail pain, fingernail swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  3. 3.Foot Sprain

    The bones of the ankle and foot are held together by ligaments, which are bands of tough tissue. A sprain is a type of injury where one or more of the ligaments is stretched too far, causing tiny fibers in the ligaments to tear. In most cases, the ligament does not tear completely.

    An uncomplicated foot sprain should improve in 3-6 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one foot, foot injury, limping, warm red foot swelling, swelling of one foot
    Symptoms that always occur with foot sprain:
    pain in one foot, foot injury
    Symptoms that never occur with foot sprain:
    recent cutting accident
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  4. 4.Skin Infection of the Foot

    Cellulitis is a common and possibly dangerous skin infection if left untreated. It is typically caused by bacteria living on the skin getting into the skin itself.

    5 days with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, foot pain, foot redness, warm red foot swelling, swollen ankle
    Symptoms that always occur with skin infection of the foot:
    foot redness, foot pain, area of skin redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.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.

    2-3 days

    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

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  6. 6.Familial Hypercholesterolemia

    Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic disorder that causes LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels to be very high. The condition begins at birth and can cause heart attacks at an early age.

    Chronic but controllable

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen achilles, achilles tendon pain
    Symptoms that never occur with familial hypercholesterolemia:
    achilles tendon pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Right Heart Failure (Cor Pulmonale)

    Cor pulmonale is known as right heart failure and is often a long-term consequence of high blood pressure or COPD.

    Treatment depends on severity of illness.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath on exertion, wheezing, decreased exercise tolerance
    Symptoms that never occur with right heart failure (cor pulmonale):
    severe chest pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.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.

    This type of arthritis can be managed with treatment, and permanent damage can be prevented. However, the underlying cause (psoriasis) is currently incurable.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Toe Fracture

    Broken toes are very common and caused by either something falling on the toe (crush injury) or a stubbing of the toe situation.

    Up to 6 weeks to heal

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constant foot pain, toe injury, toe pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with toe fracture:
    toe injury, toe pain from an injury, constant foot pain
    Symptoms that never occur with toe fracture:
    toe dislocation, toe injury with broken skin
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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. [8,13]
  • 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. [13]
  • In order to prevent infection, do not walk around public bathrooms, showers or swimming pools with bare feet. [14]

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. [7]
  • 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. [7] 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. [7]

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. [7,12]
  • Rheumatologic Medications: There are many different types of medications that combat rheumatologic conditions that may be causing your swollen toes. [15]
  • 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. [16]

Seek medical care immediately if: ### [17]

  • 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. [17]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Toes

  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Do you run for exercise or sport?
  • Q.Where exactly is your foot swelling?

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

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Swollen Toes Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen toes have also experienced:

    • 22% Big Toe Pain
    • 18% Toe Pain
    • 7% Toe Redness
  • People who have experienced swollen toes had symptoms persist for:

    • 31% Less Than a Week
    • 26% Less Than a Day
    • 22% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen toes were most often matched with:

    • 42% Gout
    • 28% Nail Infection (Paronychia)
    • 28% Foot Sprain
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Cooke SJ, Davies H, Harris NJ. Chronic digital infection presenting with gross enlargement of the toes: two case reports and review of the literature. Cases Journal. 2009;2:102. Cases J Link. Published January 29, 2009. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  2. Blahd WH, Husney A, Romito K, O'Connor HM, Healthwise Staff. Inflammation or Infection of a Toe, Foot, or Ankle. MyHealth.Alberta.ca. MyHealth.Alberta.ca Link. Published November 20, 2017. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  3. Rigopoulos D, Larios G, Gregoriou S, Alevizos A. Acute and Chronic Paronychia. American Family Physician. 2008; 77(3):339-346. Am Fam Physician Link. Published February 1, 2008. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  4. Diabetic Foot Problems. Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic Link. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  5. The Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine: Patient Education. Elliot Health System. Elliot Hospital Link. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  6. Symptoms. National Kidney Center. MKC Link. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  7. Emergency Department. Lesser toe injury. Oxford University Hospital NHS. NHS Link. Published November 2016. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  8. Paronychia. Familydoctor.org.Familydoctor.org Link. Published September 27, 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  9. Chilblains. NHS. NHS Link. Reviewed July 30, 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  10. Edema. Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic Link. Reviewed August 1, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  11. Causes and signs of edema. Informed Health Online [Internet] - Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Informed Health Link. Updated December 30, 2016.
  12. Rigopoulos D, Larios G, Gregoriou S, Alevizos A. Acute and Chronic Paronychia. American Family Physician. 2008; 77(3):339-346. Am Fam Physician Link. Published February 1, 2008. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  13. 8 tips for buying shoes that are good to your feet. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Link. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  14. Preventing Diabetic Foot Infections. American Family Physician. 2013; 88(3):Online. Am Fam Physician Link. Published August 1, 2013. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  15. Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. FootCare Link. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  16. Symptoms & Diagnosis. National Kidney Foundation of Arizona. AZ Kidney Link. Accessed October 5, 2018.
  17. Toe and Forefoot Fractures. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. FootCare Link. Accessed October 5, 2018.