Big toe arthritis

Osteoarthritis in the big toe

A condition causing the big toe joint to become painful and stiff — it can lead to swelling, tenderness and a grating sound

What is big toe arthritis?

Big toe arthritis is usually the result of a previous injury, such as breaking a toe. It can also be the result of overuse — repetitive bending and stooping, for example. It tends to affect people over 50, but can occur in younger people. It can cause the big toe to become stiffened, swollen and painful, making walking difficult.

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of big toe arthritis? icon plus

    Symptoms of big toe arthritis may include:

    • pain in and around your big toe joint; this may be present all the time, or just when you walk
    • pain when you pull your big toe up towards you
    • stiffness; the big toe may become so stiff that you cannot pull it up at all
  • How is big toe arthritis diagnosed? icon plus

    Your consultant will examine your feet and assess the big toe to determine its range of motion. X-rays will determine how much arthritis is present and evaluate any bone spurs or other abnormalities that may have formed. You may also require some blood tests to rule out causes of inflammation such as gout.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    There are many surgical and non-surgical treatments. These might include:



    • debridement and cheilectomy
    • using keyhole or open surgery, bone spurs (which form in response to the arthritis) are removed to encourage motion
    • joint replacement or interposition — there are several joint replacement options; these options are only sometimes indicated and your specialist can discuss whether these can help you
    • fusion — this converts a stiff painful joint into a still but painless joint; because other joints in the foot continue to move, function can be excellent afterwards

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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