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Toe was suddenly red, no itching or burning. Have MS. Had been treated for broken toe. Cause?

Apr 2013
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General Surgeon
Practicing since : 2008
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my big toe suddenly turned bright red overnight---I broke the toe one year ago (stepped on by a horse, lost the nail but was fully treated and have recovered. I have MS, and 64, female. No idea why my toe would suddenly turn bright red---no itching or burning
Posted Thu, 11 Jul 2013 in Bones, Muscles and Joints
Answered by Dr. Ivan R. Rommstein 35 minutes later

Thanks for your query.

It can be caused by few things. If this was really suddenly, then there could be some insect bite or contact with some irritating substance(detregents, acids, alergenes) during the night. Also, it can be caused by sudden changes in temperature.

Secondly, it can be inflammation/infection usually seen in diabetics or resulting from ingrown nail.
Thirdly, there can be blood flow disorder and this is most serious as it could be sign of arterial obstruction. In this case you need to go to hospital as soon as you can. But in this case it would be painful or you would feel numbness.

So I suggest to place your foot in warm,salty water and see will it disappear after it. Also, look for insect bites on toe or any other skin lesions. If this persists,become painful or numbness occur, you should go to hospital.

Wish you good health. If you have any questions I ll be glad to help .

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Follow-up: Toe was suddenly red, no itching or burning. Have MS. Had been treated for broken toe. Cause? 5 hours later
Your reply was quite helpful.
My toe IS numb as are all of my toes to one degree or another due to the MS----is it possible that I have developed an arterial obstruction in this one big toe which is already numb due to the underlying MS and the fact that I broke the toe last year---could there be ongoing damage--potential new problems for this toe related to my MS and the breaking of the toe last summer?
Thank you in advance for your reply.
Answered by Dr. Ivan R. Rommstein 9 hours later
Thank you for writing back.

Considering that your toe is already numb then you can't evaluate pain objectively and this is probably some inflammatory process then. MS wouldn't cause arterial obstruction directly, but there can be toe trauma or infection which wasn't recognized because of MS.
Also, complications due to previous toe breakage are very possible. There can be abnormal bone healing, bone inflammation or infection.

You should do toe Xray to verify this and if something is found, antibiotics may be necessary. Also,arterial blood flow can be checked only by doppler ultrasound. But it would be manifested by pale and cold foot in the beginning.

Hope this answers your query. Let me know if you need clarifications.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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