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Broken Toe

Broken Toe Overview

Each toe is made up of several bones. One or more of these bones may be broken (fractured) after an injury to the foot or toes.

Broken Toe Causes

Broken toes usually result from trauma or injury to the foot or toe. Injuries such as stubbing a toe or dropping a heavy object on a toe may cause a fracture. A broken toe may result from prolonged repetitive stress or movements, as in certain sports activities. This is called a stress fracture.

Broken Toe Symptoms

After the injury, pain, swelling, or stiffness will occur. Bruising of the skin around the toe may also be noticeable. The toe may not look normal, and it may even look bent or deformed if the broken bone is out of place. It may be difficult to walk due to pain, especially if the big toe is fractured.

Shoes may be painful to wear or feel tight.

Some other complications may develop as a result of the fracture. Complications can occur immediately after the injury (minutes to days), or can occur much later (weeks to years).

Immediate complications

  • Nail injury: A collection of blood may develop underneath the toenail called a subungual hematoma. If it is large, it may need to be drained. To drain a subungual hematoma a doctor will make a small hole in the toenail to drain the blood out. If the hematoma is very large or painful, the entire toenail may need to be removed.
  • Open fracture: Rarely, the broken bone in a toe fracture may protrude through the skin. This is called an open or compound fracture. Careful cleansing of the wound and possibly antibiotic medication will be needed to prevent the bone from becoming infected. Sometimes surgery may be necessary.

Delayed complications

  • After the toe fracture heals, the person may still be left with arthritis, pain, stiffness, or even a deformity.
  • Sometimes, the fractured bone will not heal completely (called a nonunion), or will heal improperly (called a malunion). Rarely, surgery may be necessary to fix this problem.
Picture of a Subungual Hematoma of the Toe
Picture of a Subungual Hematoma of the Toe
Picture of the Anatomy of the Foot
Picture of the Anatomy of the Foot
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/6/2014

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Fracture, Foot »

Approximately 10% of all fractures occur in the 26 bones of the foot.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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