What Causes Mortons Neuroma

Overview

Morton?s Neuroma is a pain condition that affects your feet and toes. If you are suffering from Morton?s Neuroma, a growth of tissue has developed over one of the nerves running from your feet into your toes. This growth can cause inflammation and pain whenever you use your foot. A type of benign tumor, Morton?s Neuroma typically develops in the space between the third and fourth toes, although it can also form between the second and third toes. When you walk, the bones and ligaments in the top of your foot press down on this growth, causing pressure and pain.

Causes

Some say that this condition should not be called Morton’s neuroma as, in fact, it is not actually a neuroma. A neuroma is a non-cancerous (benign) tumour that grows from the fibrous coverings of a nerve. There is no tumour formation in Morton’s neuroma. The anatomy of the bones of the foot is also thought to contribute to the development of Morton’s neuroma. For example, the space between the long bones (metatarsals) in the foot is narrower between the second and third, and between the third and fourth metatarsals. This means that the nerves that run between these metatarsals are more likely to be compressed and irritated. Wearing narrow shoes can make this compression worse.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Morton?s Neuroma tend to come and go over time. They are typically exacerbated by physical activity or by wearing certain shoes. Morton?s Neuroma symptoms include sharp pain in the ball of the foot, pain radiating to the tips of the toes, burning pain in the second, third, or fourth toes, numbness in the toes, sensation of a lump between the toes.

Diagnosis

To arrive at a diagnosis, the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. During the physical examination, the doctor attempts to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot. Other tests or imaging studies may be performed. The best time to see your foot and ankle surgeon is early in the development of symptoms. Early diagnosis of a Morton?s neuroma greatly lessens the need for more invasive treatments and may avoid surgery.

Non Surgical Treatment

If symptoms are severe or persistent and self-help measures did not help, the doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections, a steroid medication that reduces inflammation and pain is injected into the area of the neuroma. Only a limited number of injections are advised, otherwise the risk of undesirable side effects increases, including hypertension (high blood pressure) and weight gain. Alcohol sclerosing injections, studies have shown that alcohol injections reduce the size of Morton’s neuromas as well as alleviating pain. This is a fairly new therapy and may not be available everywhere. The doctor injects alcohol in the area of the neuroma to help sclerose (harden) the nerve and relieve pain. Injections are typically administered every 7 to 10 days. For maximum relief 4 to 7 injections are usually needed.

Surgical Treatment

If symptoms do not respond to any of the above measures then surgery may be suggested. This involves a short 30 minute operation to either remove tissue to take pressure off the nerve or to remove the nerve causing the pain. The surgery can be done as a day case but it will be two or three weeks before you can be fully active on your feet. There may be some lingering numbness afterwards if the nerve is removed. But surgery is successful in around 80% of cases. There is a small risk of complications such as infection and thickening of the skin on the soles of the feet.

Prevention

Ensuring that shoes are well fitted, low-heeled and with a wide toe area may help to prevent Morton’s neuroma.

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