Morton's neuroma is a condition that affects one of the nerves between the toes. It's also known as Morton's metatarsalgia or interdigital neuroma. In Morton's neuroma, fibrous tissue develops around the nerve, which becomes irritated and compressed. This causes severe pain on the ball of the foot and at the base of the toes. Morton's neuroma can occur on one foot or both feet. It usually affects the nerve between the third and fourth toes, but sometimes the second and third toes are affected.
The exact cause of Morton's neuroma is not known. However, it is thought to develop as a result of long-standing (chronic) stress and irritation of a plantar digital nerve. There are a number of things that are thought to contribute to this. Some thickening (fibrosis) and swelling may then develop around a part of the nerve. This can look like a neuroma and can lead to compression of the nerve. Sometimes, other problems can contribute to the compression of the nerve. These include the growth of a fatty lump (called a lipoma) and also the formation of a fluid-filled sac that can form around a joint (a bursa). Also, inflammation in the joints in the foot next to one of the digital nerves can sometimes cause irritation of the nerve and lead to the symptoms of Morton's neuroma.
Symptoms associated with a neuroma include a dull burning sensation radiating towards the toes, a cramping feeling, or even a stinging, tingling sensation that can be described as being similar to an electric shock. It is often worse when wearing shoes with most people finding the pain disappears when removing their shoes.
The diagnosis of interdigital neuroma is usually made by physical examination and review of the patient's medical history.MRI ad High Definition Ultrasound examination may be useful to confirm the diagnoses however they may still not be 100% reliable. The commonest reason for this is de to natural substances present in between the metatarsal heads and between the fat pad and the intermetatarsal ligament. These natural substances i.e. bursa, fat, capsular thickening and even bony growths, can all be a factor in the impingement process and may need to be surgically cleared.
Non Surgical Treatment
If symptoms are severe or persistent and self-help measures did not help, the doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections, a steroid medication that reduces inflammation and pain is injected into the area of the neuroma. Only a limited number of injections are advised, otherwise the risk of undesirable side effects increases, including hypertension (high blood pressure) and weight gain. Alcohol sclerosing injections, studies have shown that alcohol injections reduce the size of Morton's neuromas as well as alleviating pain. This is a fairly new therapy and may not be available everywhere. The doctor injects alcohol in the area of the neuroma to help sclerose (harden) the nerve and relieve pain. Injections are typically administered every 7 to 10 days. For maximum relief 4 to 7 injections are usually needed.
Surgery is occasionally required when the conservative treatment is not able to relieve your symptoms, particularly if you have had pain for more than 6 months. 80% of patients who require surgery report good results, with 71% of people becoming pain-free.