What foot deformity to actors Dan Aykroyd, Ashton Kutcher and Tricia Helfer have in common? They were born – and made it big – with webbed toes.
Webbed Toes – An Overview
Webbed toes, or syndactyly, is a condition where two or more toes are fused together. While all human fetuses start development with webbed fingers and toes, the webbing is normally dissolved within the first trimester of pregnancy. However, in some cases, this process is halted and webbed digits are are seen in approximately 1 in 2,500 childbirths.
There are different forms that syndactyly can take:
- Simple – toes are joined by soft tissue only
- Complex – toes are joined by fused bone
- Complete – entire length of toes are fused
- Incomplete – some portion of the toes are fused together, but not the full length
The presence of webbed toes is normally discovered at birth, but may also show up in fetal sonograms. Although relatively uncommon, webbed toes do not interfere with an individual’s mobility or athletic performance. Individuals can live a normal life without a second thought about the condition. Of course, as with any deformity, webbed toes may impact a person’s self-esteem and negatively influence his or her self confidence.
Webbed Toes – Causes
It’s not clearly understood what causes webbed toes in people, but there may be a hereditary factor. In most cases, webbed toes affect a single family member, but it can also run within a family. It can be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait, where a single gene is responsible. This deformity has also been correlated to a woman’s poor nutritional intake and/or smoking during pregnancy. Finally, over 100 medical syndromes have also been associated with webbed toes. These include Down syndrome, Amniotic Band syndrome, Miller syndrome, Apert’s syndrome, Poland syndrome and others. While some people with webbed toes may already have a diagnosis that can be associated with their condition, others may not know about an underlying syndrome.
Surgical Treatment of Webbed Toes
Because webbed toes do not limit a person’s physical ability, surgery is usually an optional procedure. Depending on the extent of the webbing, the surgical procedure involves cutting the connective tissue and stitching up the newly separated toes. A skin graft may be employed to fill in gaps. Surgery normally takes a few hours, and the patient may require a short hospital stay for recovery. Specific post-operative care instructions will be provided to the patient to facilitate recovery and reduce the likelihood of complications.
If you or someone you know has webbed toes and is considering corrective surgery, contact Houston Foot and Ankle Care to request an appointment. Dr. Gabriel Maislos is a board certified podiatrist and podiatric surgeon who will help you better understand your condition, as well as what’s involved in surgical separation of the toes. Dr. Maislos draws from many years of experience treating all types of foot and ankle problems to help patients lead normal, active lives. Call us at (713) 541-3199 to get started.