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What causes webbed toes in humans?

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Syndactyly, a condition that causes webbed or fused toes or fingers, is one of the most common types of birth abnormality.

Researchers do not understand precisely why webbed digits develop, but, in some cases, there is a definite genetic cause.



Usually, surgeons will correct webbed digits when children are quite young to prevent complications.

Most corrective surgeries are successful and give the child full function of their digits on a hand or foot that appears normal.

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What are the causes?

Syndactyly is one of the most common birth abnormalities, affecting an estimated 1 in every 2,000–3,000 children born each year.

It occurs when the toes or fingers do not separate correctly during fetal development.

Syndactyly can also occur when the skin or another body structure does not heal properly after a significant injury, such as a burn.

Syndactyly often presents as webbing, so people often refer to the condition as webbed toes or fingers.

The majority of cases of webbed toes occur when the skin fails to separate during fetal development.

However, more severe cases of syndactyly may also involve other parts of the body, including:

  • bones

  • blood vessels

  • muscles

  • nervesSyndactyly may appear as a symptom of another syndrome or medical condition, but most cases are non-syndromic, meaning that they have no apparent cause.

    Currently, there are 300 different syndromes linked to syndactyly, most of which are genetic conditions. The most common ones include:

    • Down syndrome

    • Apert syndrome

    • Crouzon syndrome

    There is a well-established genetic basis for some types of syndactyly, and most people would consider webbed toes to be an inherited condition. However, researchers still do not understand the full range of factors that cause the condition to develop because each case is different.

    According to the available research, boys are more likely to develop syndactyly than girls. And Caucasian children seem to be more likely to develop webbed digits than children from other ethnic backgrounds.

    Although it can affect any of the toes or the spaces between them, syndactyly most frequently develops between the second and third toes.

    What are the main symptoms?

    Each person with syndactyly tends to experience different symptoms, as webbed toes may be:

    • Unilateral or bilateral: Impacting only one side of the body or both.

    • Severe, moderate, or mild: With digits almost entirely fused, with digits partially fused, or with only minor webbing between digits.

    • Symmetric or asymmetric: Appearing alike and in the same region on both sides of the body, or appearing dissimilar or in different places on each side of the body.

    • Simple or complex: Involving only two digits or a few bones, or including multiple digits or bones.

    • Painful or asymptomatic.

    Minor cases may not interfere much with toe or foot movement and function. However, if the toes are severely webbed or fused, the condition can be disabling.

    What are the treatment options?

    In most cases, it is possible to correct webbed toes surgically, and this usually occurs between the ages of 12 and 18 months before full development has happened.

    It is best to fix webbed toes before they can cause any joint malformation.

    A doctor will usually order an X-ray or ultrasound of the webbed area to determine exactly which structures it involves and the best surgical approach.

    They may also order blood tests and chromosomal tests to check whether the webbing relates to another condition, or is syndromic, particularly if a child has other physical signs of a genetic syndrome.

    The exact surgical procedure to correct webbed toes depends on the severity of the webbing and the structures it involves.

    Typical surgical procedure

    In most cases, once the child is unconscious, the surgeon will cut through the webbing in a zigzag manner along the midline point.

    Cutting the webbing in this way will help to prevent the scarring from interfering with healthy growth and development. If any structures other than the skin are fused, the surgeon will carefully work to divide them as they make the zigzag cuts.

    The surgeon will sometimes stitch skin grafts, or transplanted pieces of healthy skin, over the top of the exposed wounds to protect them as they heal. This will also minimize scarring by reducing tension as the wound heals. The surgeon will usually take skin grafts from the child’s inner groin area or the back of the upper arm.

    They will then wrap layers of bandages around the affected area, or fix it in a cast that will cover and immobilize the corrected toes to protect them from injury as they heal. In total, most surgeries to repair webbed digits take 2–5 hours.

    Recovery time

    Most children will have to stay in the hospital for a few days after the surgery. There is usually some bruising, swelling, and nail discoloration on the toes. After discharge from the hospital, children are likely to need pain medications as they recover.

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Stay Healthy & Protect Yourself from Cancer

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Health they say is wealth and there are certain habits that can guarantee great health even as you progress in years.
Eight healthy behaviors can go a long way toward improving your health and lowering your risk of many cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis. And they’re not as complicated as you might think.
So take control of your health, and encourage your family to do the same. Choose one or two of the behaviors below to start with. Once you’ve got those down, move on to the others.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Keeping your weight in check is often easier said than done, but a few simple tips can help. First off, if you’re overweight, focus initially on not gaining any more weight. This by itself can improve your health. Then, when you’re ready, try to take off some extra pounds for an even greater health boost. To see where you fall on the weight range, click here.
Tips
  • Integrate physical activity and movement into your life.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Choose smaller portions and eat more slowly.
For Parents and Grandparents 
  • Limit children’s TV and computer time.
  • Encourage healthy snacking on fruits and vegetables.
  • Encourage activity during free time.
2. Exercise Regularly
Few things are as good for you as regular physical activity. While it can be hard to find the time, it’s important to fit in at least 30 minutes of activity every day. More is even better, but any amount is better than none.
Tips 
  • Choose activities you enjoy. Many things count as exercise, including walking, gardening and dancing.
  • Make exercise a habit by setting aside the same time for it each day. Try going to the gym at lunchtime or taking a walk regularly after dinner.
  • Stay motivated by exercising with someone.
For Parents and Grandparents 
  • Play active games with your kids regularly and go on family walks and bike rides when the weather allows.
  • Encourage children to play outside (when it’s safe) and to take part in organized activities, including soccer, gymnastics and dancing.
  • Walk with your kids to school in the morning. It’s great exercise for everyone.
3. Don’t Smoke
You’ve heard it before: If you smoke, quitting is absolutely the best thing you can do for your health. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s also far from impossible. More than 1,000 Americans stop for good every day.
Tips 
  • Keep trying! It often takes six or seven tries before you quit for good.
  • Talk to a health-care provider for help.
  • Join a quit-smoking program. Your workplace or health plan may offer one.
For Parents and Grandparents
  • Try to quit as soon as possible. If you smoke, your children will be more likely to smoke.
  • Don’t smoke in the house or car. If kids breathe in your smoke, they may have a higher risk of breathing problems and lung cancer.
  • When appropriate, talk to your kids about the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco. A health-care professional or school counselor can help.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
Despite confusing news reports, the basics of healthy eating are actually quite straightforward. You should focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains and keep red meat to a minimum. It’s also important to cut back on bad fats (saturated and trans fats) and choose healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) more often. Taking a multivitamin with folate every day is a great nutrition insurance policy.
Tips
  • Make fruits and vegetables a part of every meal. Put fruit on your cereal. Eat vegetables as a snack.
  • Choose chicken, fish or beans instead of red meat.
  • Choose whole-grain cereal, brown rice and whole-wheat bread over their more refined counterparts.
  • Choose dishes made with olive or canola oil, which are high in healthy fats.
  • Cut back on fast food and store-bought snacks (like cookies), which are high in bad fats.
  • Buy a 100 percent RDA multivitamin that contains folate.
5. Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation, If at All
Moderate drinking is good for the heart, as many people already know, but it can also increase the risk of cancer. If you don’t drink, don’t feel that you need to start. If you already drink moderately (less than one drink a day for women, less than two drinks a day for men), there’s probably no reason to stop. People who drink more, though, should cut back.
Tips
  • Choose nonalcoholic beverages at meals and parties.
  • Avoid occasions centered around alcohol.
  • Talk to a health-care professional if you feel you have a problem with alcohol.
For Parents and Grandparents
  • Avoid making alcohol an essential part of family gatherings.
  • When appropriate, discuss the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse with children. A health-care professional or school counselor can help.
6. Protect Yourself from the Sun
While the warm sun is certainly inviting, too much exposure to it can lead to skin cancer, including serious melanoma. Skin damage starts early in childhood, so it’s especially important to protect children.
Tips
  • Steer clear of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (peak burning hours). It’s the best way to protect yourself.
  • Wear hats, long-sleeve shirts and sunscreens with SPF15 or higher.
  • Don’t use sun lamps or tanning booths. Try self-tanning creams instead.
For Parents and Grandparents 
  • Buy tinted sunscreen so you can see if you’ve missed any spots on a fidgety child.
  • Set a good example for children by also protecting yourself with clothing, shade and sunscreen.
7. Protect Yourself From Sexually Transmitted Infections
Among other problems, sexually transmitted infections – like human papillomavirus (HPV) – are linked to a number of different cancers. Protecting yourself from these infections can lower your risk.
Tips
  • Aside from not having sex, the best protection is to be in a committed, monogamous relationship with someone who does not have a sexually transmitted infection.
  • For all other situations, be sure to always use a condom and follow other safe-sex practices.
  • Never rely on your partner to have a condom. Always be prepared.
For Parents and Grandparents
  • When appropriate, discuss with children the importance of abstinence and safe sex. A health-care professional or school counselor can help.
  • Vaccinate girls and young women as well as boys and young men against HPV. Talk to a health professional for more information.
8. Get Screening Tests
There are a number of important screening tests that can help protect against cancer. Some of these tests find cancer early when they are most treatable, while others can actually help keep cancer from developing in the first place. For colorectal cancer alone, regular screening could save over 30,000 lives each year. That’s three times the number of people killed by drunk drivers in the United States in all of 2011. Talk to a health care professional about which tests you should have and when.
Cancers that should be tested for regularly:
  • Colon and rectal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Lung cancer (in current or past heavy smokers)

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Health & Lifestyle

Sickle cell may get solution soon – scientists.

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Scientists in the U.S. have unveiled results of a small clinical trial that could mean an effective “cure” for sickle cell anemia, the painful and debilitating disease that inflicts many millions of people across the globe, mostly of African heritage and including some 100,000 African Americans in the U.S.



Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say they have used gene therapy techniques to add a “corrected” gene for healthy red blood cells into the bodies of nine test patients, replacing their diseased red blood cells caused by sickle cell anemia and effectively ridding them of signs of the disease.

NIH Director Francis Collins described the trial results as seemingly “spectacular”.

IMG-20180912-WA0030

“When you look at their blood counts and their blood smears, it looks like they don’t have it anymore,” Collins said on Monday (March 11) from his office at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes protein crystals to form inside red blood cells, changing their shape from a flat disk into a crescent or sickle shape that then clogs up the small blood vessels and results in terrible episodes of pain and organ damage.

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But they believe the basic premise of introducing a corrected gene into the body holds promise for Africa provided a simpler, cheaper and less toxic delivery system than bone marrow transplant and the accompanying chemotherapy can be found.

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