Of the 26 bones in the foot, there are 19 in the toes, also called phalanges. These bones are commonly broken through traumatic injury although stress fractures are also possible. When a person has a broken toe, a range of symptoms may occur with varying intensity. Broken toe symptoms can emerge immediately or they can appear months or years later. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking; sometimes the toe will have a misshapen appearance, the bone can protrude through the skin, and the nail can be severely damaged.
A broken toe is a fairly common complaint and should be evaluated by a medical professional. Fractured toes can be caused by traumatic injury such as dropping a heavy object on the foot or stubbing the toe extremely hard. It is sometimes possible to hear the break when it occurs because it may make a cracking or snapping sound. The other type of fracture is much less common and is called a stress fracture. This type can occur from repetitive motion and usually takes the form of a hairline crack in the bone.
When an individual has a fractured toe, he or she may experience a range of symptoms which vary in intensity. A very common symptom is pain at the area of the fracture, the toe will usually hurt when touched, and the discomfort can spread to the surrounding area. There is also usually swelling present, which may be moderate or severe, and can cause shoes to feel uncomfortably tight. Bruising can appear within the first few hours or may not be noticeable until the next day. Particularly in the case of traumatic injuries, the bruising can be severe with vivid discoloration.
Other possible symptoms of a broken toe from a traumatic injury include nail damage and occasionally subungual hematoma. A subungual hematoma results when there is bleeding from the injury and a large amount of blood becomes trapped under the toenail; in some cases this may need to be drained via a small hole in the nail. It is also possible for there to be an open wound at the site of the broken toe, and in some cases the bone may protrude from the skin. In less severe cases where the bones are out of alignment, the toe will appear to have changed shape or it may stick out sideways. Some symptoms such as pain and swelling may linger for a long time, the toe's shape could be permanently changed, and arthritis can develop in the area years later.