ZocdocAnswersMy big toe is swollen, painful and slightly reddened. What could it be?

Question

My big toe is swollen, painful and slightly reddened. What could it be?

It is not at the base of the toe nor near the skin fold (near the nail) it is actually in the middle near that second little joint. It is hard when palpated and also very painful to the touch however at the same time has almost a numbness to it as well. It is so bizarre. It also at times feels itchy. I'm baffled and can't figure out what it might be!!!??

Answer

The first thing to determine is whether the pain and swelling are coming from the joint, the bones, the muscles/ligaments, or the skin, which can be done best by your doctor. If the pain/swelling is from the joint itself, there are several possibilities, including gout, pseudogout, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and joint infection. You are particularly at risk for infection if you are diabetic, have unprotected sex, and have noticed fevers or chills, and this would be a reason to present to the doctor right away. If the swelling and pain are not from the joint itself, it's possible that you have a fracture in one of the bones of the toe, or that you are having inflammation from a skin process. Possibilities include fungal infection, wart, bunion, and a non-healing bite or wound. Ingrown toenails can also cause pain and swelling, though would likely be closer to the nail itself. You could also have sprained the ligaments of the toe, causing persistent pain and swelling, particularly with certain movements of the toe. The best thing to do would be to see your primary care doctor, who can examine the toe and help determine what might be going on and whether any further testing is necessary.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.