Self-conscious about your toes? You aren't alone. A growing number of patients are turning to podiatrists to reshape their lowermost appendages to make their toes thinner and more attractive. The procedure treats an affliction that has been dubbed "toe-besity," and a few New York surgeons say that they've seen more and more people complaining about fat toes. With Americans now spending $10.4 billion annually on cosmetic surgery, is the latest craze just another egregious reason to go under the knife? Here, a brief guide:
Why are people getting this done?
"Americans' neuroses have now become so specific as to cause severe embarrassment over the width of our toes," says Rebecca Adams at the Huffington Post. Many people choose toe-besity surgery for purely aesthetic reasons (like looking good in slip-ons), but many others use it to treat real medical problems like hammertoe or other discomforts. Says Dr. Hillary Brenner, a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association, "I don't think it's ethical unless you're having pain."
How do doctors make a toe thinner?
One 37-year-old patient named E.R. decided to have the procedure done on his right big toe to alleviate nagging pain. Dr. Oliver Zong of New York, who performed the surgery, "shaved off some fat and bone" to reshape the portly extremity, which also took pressure off E.R.'s second toe, a hammertoe that had long caused him discomfort. "The bone was pushing the nail up, and the nail curved up a little bit, so it was hitting the shoe," E.R. tells ABC News. "I already see improvement, and I feel so much more confident now."
Is this procedure a relatively new offering?
Dr. Zong says that when he first started treating patients about a decade ago, his most self-conscious clients simply wanted toe-shortenings. Now, more and more are obsessing over every detail of their feet, especially the width of their toes.
Are there any risks?
"There's the risk of [complications from being given] anesthesia, infection, deformity of the toe if the surgery is not done right, a risk of reoccurrence, and the risk of surgery in general," says Dr. Brenner. After all: Getting the procedure performed is "trauma to the foot."
How much does it cost?
Depending on the complexity of the operation, costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. E.R., for example, says he paid $2,500 for the procedure, although he says it was more than worth it: "My goal is to wear flip-flops," he said.