A neuroma is an often painful enlargement of one of your body?s nerves. Morton?s neuroma is the name used to describe nerve enlargement in your foot, particularly enlargement of one of the nerves traveling to your toes in your forefoot. Morton?s neuromas most commonly develop in one of your intermetatarsal nerves, one of many nerve branches within your foot that originated in your spine. Morton?s neuroma is more likely to affect women than men.
The pain of Morton's neuroma occurs when the nerve connecting the toe bones (metatarsal bones) becomes irritated or compressed. The exact cause of the irritation is unknown, but it may be the metatarsal bones pressing against the nerve when the gap between the bones is narrow. This causes the nerve and surrounding tissue to thicken. Some experts believe that a number of other foot problems, including flat feet, high foot arches, bunions and hammer toes, may also play a role in Morton's neuroma.
Episodes of pain are intermittent. Patients may experience 2 attacks in a week and then none for a year. Recurrences are variable and tend to become more frequent. Between attacks, no symptoms or physical signs occur. Two neuromas coexist on the same foot about 2-3% of the time. Other diagnoses should be considered when 2 or more areas of tenderness are present.
Morton?s neuroma can be identified during a physical exam, after pressing on the bottom of the foot. This maneuver usually reproduces the patient?s pain. MRI and ultrasound are imaging studiesthat can demonstrate the presence of the neuroma. An x-ray may also be ordered to make sure no other issues exist in the foot. A local anesthetic injection along the neuroma may temporarily abolish the pain, and help confirm the diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended to dull the pain and lessen swelling. Neuropathic pain medications such as the antionvulsants and / or antidepressants may be tried as well. Many are able to recover from this issue at home by icing the area, resting the feet, and by avoiding wearing narrow or tight shoes. If these remedies do not work to alleviate symptoms, the doctor may give special devices to separate the toes and avoid the squeezing of the nerve. Steroid injections may reduce pain and swelling. Surgery may be required if these do not help.
Operative treatment of Morton?s neuroma should be entertained only after failure of nonoperative management. Standard operative treatment involves identifying the nerve and cutting (resecting) it proximal to the point where it is irritate/injured. This is usually done through an incision on the top (dorsal) aspect of the foot, although in rare instances, an incision on the sole (plantar) aspect of the foot maybe used. An incision on the sole of the foot works very well, unless an excessive scar forms in which case it can be problematic. Some physicians will attempt to treat Morton?s neuroma by releasing the intermetatarsal ligament and freeing the nerve of local scar tissue. This may also be beneficial.