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Morton's neuroma

Contents of this page:

Definition    Return to top

Morton's neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue between the third and fourth toes.

See also: Foot pain

Causes    Return to top

Morton's neuroma is more common in women than men.

The exact cause is unknown. However, some experts believe the following may play a role in the development of this condition:

Symptoms    Return to top

Symptoms of Morton's neuroma include:

In rare cases, nerve pain occurs in the space between the second and third toes. This is not a true form of Morton's neuroma, but treatment is similar.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

A foot x-ray may be done to rule out bone problems. MRI or high-resolution ultrasound can successfully diagnose Morton's neuroma.

Nerve testing (electromyography) cannot definitely diagnose Morton's neuroma, but may be used to rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms.

Your doctor may order blood tests to check for inflammation-related conditions, including certain forms of arthritis.

Treatment    Return to top

Non-surgical treatment is tried first. Your doctor may recommend any of the following:

Anti-inflammatories and painkillers are not recommended for long-term treatment.

In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the thickened tissue. This can help relieve pain and improve foot function. Numbness after surgery is permanent, but should not be painful.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Non-surgical treatment does not always improve symptoms. Surgery to remove the thickened tissue is successful in about 85% of cases.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Morton's neuroma can make walking difficult. Persons with this foot condition may also have trouble performing activities that put pressure on the foot, such as pressing the gas pedal of an automobile. It may hurt to wear certain types of shoes, such as high-heels.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if you have persistent pain or tingling in your foot or toe area.

Prevention    Return to top

Avoid ill-fitting shoes. Wear shoes with a wide toe box.

References    Return to top

Academy of Ambulatory Foot and Ankle Surgery. Intermetatarsal neuroma. Philadelphia, PA: Academy of Ambulatory Foot and Ankle Surgery; 2003.

El-Khoury GY, Bennett DL, Dalinka MK, et al. Expert Panel on Musculoskeletal Imaging. Chronic foot pain. Reston, VA: American College of Radiology; 2005.

Frontera, WR, Silver JK. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Hanley & Belfus; 2002.

Update Date: 6/7/2007

Updated by: Thomas N. Joseph, MD, Private Practice specializing in Orthopaedics,subspecialty Foot and Ankle, Camden Bone & Joint, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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