This is a painful condition affecting a small nerve in the foot. It occurs when the five long bones that run the length of the foot get pushed together, pinching the nerve in between. This friction on the nerve causes it to thicken and inflame causing pain. The condition gets its name from an American surgeon, George Morton.
Experts are not sure what exactly causes Morton's neuroma. It seems to develop as a result of irritation, pressure or injury to one of the digital nerves that lead to the toes, which triggers a body response, resulting in thickened nerve tissue (neuroma). Feet conditions/situations that can cause the bones to rub against a nerve include high-heeled shoes, especially those over 2 inches (5cm), or a pointed or tight toe box which squash the toes together. This is probably why the condition is much more common in females than in males. High-arched foot, people whose feet have high arches are much more likely to suffer from Morton's neuroma than others. Flat feet, the arch of the foot collapses. The entire sole of the foot comes into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. A bunion, a localized painful swelling at the base of the big toe, which enlarges the joint. Hammer toe, a deformity of the proximal interphalangeal joint of the second, third, or fourth toe causing it to be permanently bent. Some high-impact sporting activities including running, karate, and court sports. Any sport that places undue pressure on the feet. Injuries, an injury or other type of trauma to the foot may lead to a neuroma.
Feelings of numbness, tingling or tenderness in the ball of the foot (the area just behind the base of the toes) are some of the first signs of a condition known as Morton?s Neuroma. However, the condition is somewhat unpredictable, and symptoms may vary from patient to patient. Generally, however, the discomfort gets worse rather than better, and the patient may feel pain or a burning sensation that radiates out to the toes. Eventually, wearing shoes becomes uncomfortable (or even unbearable), and the patient may complain that the feeling is similar to that of having a stone bruise, or walking on a marble or pebble constantly, even though no there is no trauma to the skin, and no visible bump or lump on the sole of the foot.
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.
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.