MEYERLAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Shaun Smith of Meyerland suffered with debilitating pain in her big toe for years. Even the slightest touch on her toe brought excruciating pain, and limited her day-to-day life.
"I couldn't do sports, I could barely walk my dog. If the sheet touched my toe, it was so painful."
Dr. David Bloome of Fondren Orthopedic Group sees this type of arthritis fairly often.
"It can be very debilitating. We think about arthritis in the knees and hips, but arthritis in the big toe can be very crippling and debilitating," Dr. Bloome said.
In the past, doctors have recommended using fusion, which is surgery to cut away part of the damaged joint and fuse the bones together. Fusion can help to relieve pain, but patients lose movement. That can limit sports and activities.
Now, a new product called Cartiva is the first FDA approved synthetic cartilage. Smith opted for a surgery using Cartiva to help cushion the bones in her toe. She says it was life-changing.
The surgery was an outpatient procedure. Within a couple of weeks, Smith was back to her daily activities. Within months, she was back in her favorite high heels and cowboy boots.
Cartiva is only FDA approved for use in the big toe, but trials are underway for use in the thumb and knees. Long term, the synthetic cartilage could have many different uses.
The only downside? Smith says she has been spending a lot of money on new shoes!