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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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Health & Lifestyle

Impact of Chronic Noise on Heart Health

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Exposure to a high level of noise on a regular basis can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system, according to new research.



The leader of the study was Dr. Azar Radfar, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The findings will be presented at Scientific Sessions 2018, held by the American Heart Association (AHA) in Chicago, IL.

Dr. Radfar’s team found that noise exposure causes an elevated stress response in the human brain.

This can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels, which can cause serious health problems, including a heart attack or stroke.

The research included 499 participants, who were free from cardiovascular disease and cancer at the study’s start.

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Noise and cardiovascular events

The participants underwent positron emission tomography (PET) and CT scans of their brains and blood vessels. The researchers also looked at the activity of the amygdala, a region of the brain that regulates stress and emotional response.

The team estimated participants’ regular exposure to noise by comparing their home addresses with data from the United States Department of Transportation’s National Transportation Noise Map, which includes information about levels of roadway and aviation noise.

 



Years later, the researchers examined the participants’ medical records for evidence of cardiovascular events. Of the 499 original participants, 40 had experienced a heart attack or stroke in the 5 years that followed the initial testing.

After analyzing the data, the team discovered that participants with the highest levels of noise exposure also had the most noticeable stress-related brain activity. In addition, they had more inflammation in their arteries.

Increased blood vessel inflammation is a well-established risk factor for heart disease, so finding a link between this inflammation and cardiovascular events was no surprise.

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However, participants with the most stress-related brain activity were more than three times as likely to experience a major cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Even after accounting for other risk factors, such as air pollution, smoking, and diabetes, the team concluded that participants exposed to higher levels of noise pollution had an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

What are the next steps?

Determining whether decreasing noise exposure can reduce the risk of heart disease will require further research. The study’s authors urge doctors to consider high noise levels as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular events.

While simply moving away from an area with noise pollution is usually not an option, the authors urge their readers to consider ways to decrease high levels of ambient noise.

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Health & Lifestyle

Experiment shows social media use increases depression and anxiety

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Image result for Experiment shows social media use increases depression and anxiety

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After the three weeks were up, the students were surveyed again using the same tools to measure their well-being. These tools measured outcomes like depression, loneliness, anxiety, and that most millennial of worries, fear of missing out. The group of students who limited their social media usage showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out from the start of the experiment. In particular, people who had higher levels of depression at the start of the study showed a decrease in depressive symptoms when they limited their social media time. One subject described the experience personally: “Not comparing my life to the lives of others had a much stronger impact than I expected, and I felt a lot more positive about myself during those weeks.”

While plenty have studies have looked at well-being and internet use and found that, for example, anxious people tend to have a problematic approach to internet use or that depression can be identified through social media use, this is the first study to confirm this link experimentally. It shows that it is not merely the case that depressed, anxious, or unhappy people happen to use social media more often, but rather that the act of using the sites decreases well-being. The researchers recommend limiting social media use to 30 minutes per day to improve your mood and mental health.

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