Webbed toes are when two or more toes are fused together. We typically think of animals, like ducks and frogs to have webbed toes, not humans. During our fetal development, we all have fingers and toes that are webbed. At six to eight weeks of development, an enzyme dissolves the tissues between our digits. But 1 in every 2,000 births results in webbed toes. Webbed toes can also be called duck toes, twin toes, or tiger toes.
The most commonly webbed toes are the second and third toes, and there are six types of webbed toes:
- Simple. Adjacent toes are joined by soft tissue and skin only.
- Complex. Bones of the toes are fused together. This is very rare.
- Complete. The skin joins the toes from top to bottom.
- Incomplete. The skin is joined partially by skin, usually only to the first joint.
- Fenestrated. Skin is joined for most of the toe, but there is a gap in the middle.
- Polysyndactyl. There is an extra digit webbed to an adjacent digit.
This condition will not impair a person's ability to walk, run, jump, or swim, however many feel embarrassed or experience low self esteem.
The cause of webbed toes is unknown. Some people used to believe it was an inherited trait, but sometimes only one person in the family would have webbed toes. Studies suggest a woman's nutritional intake during early gestation and smoking during pregnancy may contribute to this deformity. Webbed toes are also associated with the following conditions:
- Down's Syndrome
- Apert's Syndrome
- Poland Syndrome
- Holt-Oram Syndrome
- Carpenter's Syndrome
- Edward's Syndrome
- Fetal hydantoin effect
- Miller Syndrome
- Pfeiffer Syndrome
- Amniotic Band Syndrome
- Smith-Lemli-Optiz Syndrome
- Aarskog-Scott Syndrome
- Bardet-Beidl Syndrome
- Cornelia de Lange Syndrome
- Familial syndactyl
- Timothy Syndrome
Diagnosis may occur even before birth with a sonogram, or at birth. Additional symptoms indicate there is an underlying syndrome.
Webbed toes can be separated surgically, even though this condition does not cause any health problems (unless there is an underlying condition). Your doctor will use a skin graft from your thigh, which fill in the missing skin, to surgically separate your toes. Results will vary on the severity of the webbing and the underlying bone structure. Surgery will begin with general anesthesia and the surgeon marking off the areas that will be repaired. The procedure can last from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the severity of the condition. Most patients are required to stay in the hospital for up to 2 days after surgery. Many patients experience swelling and bruising, but that is normal. Pain medication will be prescribed to deal with the pain and discomfort. Once you are released from the hospital you will have to keep your bandages clean and dry for up to 3 weeks. Skin grafts can be very dry, and using lotion will help moisturize the area.
Complications of the surgery may include scarring and webbing growing back. There may also be post-operative swelling, severe pain, numbness, bluish discoloration, and tingling toes. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your podiatrist right away. Other complications include:
- Skin graft damage, which may darken over time.
- Breathing problems
- Sore throat from tubation
- Excessive bleeding
- Bad reaction to medications
- May need second surgery
If you have webbed toes, consider asking your podiatrist the following questions:
- Will I pass this on to my children?
- Do you recommend surgery?
- What are the risks?
- What tests should I anticipate?
- Are there non-surgical treatment options?
- What nutrients reduce the risk of my child having webbed toes?
If you believe have a foot problem and do not currently see a podiatrist, call one of our six locations to make an appointment.
Connecticut Foot Care Centers
Podiatrists in CT