This rare deformity resulted in an oversized and painful toe.

By Claire Gillespie
Updated March 05, 2020
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If you think your ingrown toenail is bad, wait until you see TLC’s new show, My Feet Are Killing Me. On Thursday night’s episode, a woman underwent toe surgery that will change her life (and definitely puts that ingrown nail into perspective).

Kiara basically had two toes growing in one, resulting in an oversized—and painful—big toe on her left foot. “Kiara's a really interesting case,” New Jersey-based podiatrist Brad Schaeffer said in a preview clip for the show. “She has a really big toe. Her body, for whatever reason, wanted to grow another toe on the inside of her foot.”

To give Kiara “a perfect mirror image of her right toe,” Dr. Schaeffer started by making an incision down the middle of the toe and taking away the nail. “Can you feel bone under there?” his fellow podiatrist Sarah Haller asked. “It's bigger than I thought it was going to be.”

Although Schaeffer was able to feel the bone with his scalpel, he found it difficult to remove it at first. 

“You know, when looking at an X-ray, it looks like there is a clear demarcation where there's like a nice joint,” he explained, “but that bone is attached in a certain way to where I just can't get through it with a blade.”

Credit: TLC

It was only after he switched tools that he was able to completely remove the segment of bone that was growing in Kiara’s big toe. 

“Goodbye extra bone,” he said as he placed it on the table. “That side is gone.”

Kiara’s condition falls under a category of deformities called Polydactyl (or Polydactyly), Florida-based board-certified podiatrist Francisco J. Oliva, tells Health.  

“It’s genetic in origin and can have a distant family trait, although this isn’t always the case,” Oliva adds. “When the embryological cells differentiate to form toes, the cell can have an error message expressed which leads to an extra toe. Some forms of polydactyly can be seen as a totally separate, extra toe, but in this case the two toes never separated. As a result, she had an extra toe growing within the big toe.” 

It’s a rare condition, Oliva says, and some patients choose to live with it. Others might seek surgical correction for cosmetic reasons. (Or because it makes fascinating television, right?)

Kiara’s big toe isn’t the first unusual foot issue Schaeffer has dealt with.

"I had a gentleman who lost his mom a few years ago and neglected his life. His nails were close to world record length. Seeing that extreme case and turning it around is all inspiring," he told Patch. "It is challenging but also exciting…because for the most part you don't see these challenges walk into your office on a daily basis."

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