What causes toe symptoms?

Injury or damage to the toes can cause toe symptoms. Diseases that affect the entire body, such as diabetes, arthritis, or vascular disease, can also lead to toe symptoms.

Common injuries that can cause of toe symptoms

A number of common injuries, either to the toes or to the nerves that provide feeling and movement to the toes, can cause toe symptoms. These injuries include:

  • Bite and sting injuries
  • Broken toe
  • Burns
  • Dislocation of bones
  • Nerve entrapment or compression (pinched nerve)
  • Repetitive motion disorders
  • Sports injuries
  • Stress fractures
  • Tendon rupture
  • Toe sprain

Inflammatory causes of toe symptoms

Inflammation can cause toe symptoms that may be present in several toes, one toe, or just a small part of a toe. Examples of inflammatory causes include:

  • Abscess (localized collection of pus due to an infection or a foreign object under the skin)
  • Bursitis (inflammation of a bursa sac that cushions a joint)
  • Cellulitis (infection of the skin and underlying soft tissue)
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  • Papilloma virus infection (plantar warts)
  • Paronychia (nail infection)
  • Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the thick, fibrous tissue on the bottom of the foot)
  • Skin ulceration
  • Tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon)
  • Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)

Arthritic causes of toe symptoms

Inflammation due arthritis can cause symptoms that may be present in the toes. Examples of arthritic causes of toe symptoms include:

  • Gout (a type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints)
  • Osteoarthritis (wearing down of cartilage in the joints)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)

Neuromuscular causes of toe symptoms

A number of conditions that affect the muscles or nerves in the body can produce toe symptoms. These conditions include:

  • Peripheral neuropathy (disorder that causes dysfunction of the nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord)
  • Raynaud’s disease (spasms of small blood vessels of the fingers and toes, reducing blood circulation; has no known cause)

Other causes of toe symptoms

Toe symptoms can also be caused by problems that affect multiple body systems including:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Benign or malignant tumors
  • Blood clots
  • Bone spurs
  • Buerger’s disease (acute inflammation and clotting of arteries and veins)
  • Congenital deformities (deformities present at birth)
  • Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
  • Herniated disc (ruptured or slipped disc)
  • Obesity
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, which is a narrowing of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, which limits blood flow to the extremities)
  • Raynaud’s disease (spasms of small blood vessels of the fingers and toes, reducing blood circulation; has no known cause)

Serious or life-threatening causes of toe symptoms

  • Life-threatening causes of toe symptoms are rare. However, serious injuries to the toes may need to be evaluated in an emergency setting. Additionally, in some cases, toe numbness or weakness may be a symptom of a stroke, which is a life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of toe symptoms

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your toe symptoms including:

  • How long have you had your toe symptoms?
  • What other symptoms are you experiencing?
  • When do your symptoms occur?
  • Are your symptoms worsened or relieved by movement or specific activities?

What are the potential complications of toe symptoms?

Because toe symptoms can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Amputation
  • Deformity
  • Difficulty walking
  • Disability
  • Serious infections and gangrene
  • Severe discomfort and pain
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection


Foot pain. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003183.htm. Accessed May 10, 2011.

Should your child see a doctor? Finger or toe injury. Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation. http://www.seattlechildrens.org/medical-conditions/symptom-index/finger-toe-injury/. Accessed May 10, 2011.


What are the signs of toe problems?

Toe symptoms include pain, numbness, weakness, stiffness, swelling, or problems moving the toes. The symptoms may be constant or variable and may improve or worsen with movement. If toe pain is present, it may be described as sharp, dull, stabbing, burning or throbbing and may range in intensity from mild to severe.... Read more about toe symptomsintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with toe symptoms?

Toe symptoms may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the toes and feet may also involve other body systems.... Read more about toe symptomssymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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