Medically related painful toes

Medically related painful toes are uncommon. The stiff toe is more likely to arise due to injury. In this introductory article I will cover the most common medical causes of painful toes which will involve osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and psoriasis.

The big toe is a large round ended joint. When it jams up its movement is affected. In addition there are changes to the efficiency of the joint lubrication mechanism. Because the joint oil (synovial fluid) brings nourishment to the cartilage damage follows on if the lubrication fails. Many of the conditions described affect more than toes.


Joint stiffness may occur through osteoarthrosis and typically affects larger joints. This is a condition that relates to the poor quality in the cartilage make up. As we age signs of degeneration appear as stiffness, swelling and pain. The fingers are often affected but we also know many large joints are affected as well. Osteoarthritis is often thought an old person’s disease but it can start from middle age (40 years upwards).

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is also caused by inflammation around the joint. The body ends up by attacking attacking itself because the  immune system acts against its own. Cartilage degeneration arises again but the bone is badly affected. Patients feel unwell in addition to any stiffness that arises.

The condition of RA can be associated with other medical problems such as thyroid. If the thyroid gland functions poorly it can lead to us feeling sluggish and gaining weight. The opposite is true when the thyroid is overactive. These are complicated conditions and can affect other organs of the body.


This is a well known condition in history but will arise irrespective of parentage. The toe becomes enlarged, hot, red and shoes are difficult to tolerate if they press on the joint and skin. Food and alcohol can bring gout on. The balance of chemicals affecting the kidney causes a build-up of crystals. The crystals damage the joint lining. As the joint enlarges, the surface cartilage dries out and  forms a white thick paste-like crushed almonds. Gout can be treated effectively as can rheumatoid arthritis often without the need for surgery.


A lesser known medically related painful toe arises with wasting of the cartilage and ends of bone. This is due to psoriasis a skin condition. Although primarily a skin complaint psoriasis can affect joints in around 7-10% of those afflicted with psoriasis. The big toe joint is not the only joint affected and is common in smaller joints, including the toes. 

Rheumatology medicine and other conditions

Medical related painful toes are associated with the study of rheumatology medicine. The reader should note that these conditions are less common in the case of hallux rigidus than localised  injury. Articles are linked to the NHS information site which covers each medically related condition mentioned in this article. Feet are affected by these four arthritic conditions known as arthritides pronounced art-ritt-a-dees. A fifth conditions can be found in feet called ankylosing spondylosis. The affects the spine mostly but is one of the many and causes  heel pain often associated with plantar fasciitis.

You can read more articles on ConsultingFootPain under ‘Footlocker’

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Stiff Big Toe Joint Pain Number Three
The Sesamoid Bone

Thank you for reading “Common forms of foot arthritis” by David R Tollafield

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Published by Busypencilcase Communications. Est. 2015 for ConsultingFootPain