Bunions are a common problem that most people experience as a bony protuberance at the base of the big toe. A bunion, however, is more complicated than simply a bump on the foot. When a patient has a bunion, the big toe angles in toward the other toes, a condition called hallux valgus. Bunions are most common in women, and the cause is most often unsuitable footwear.
Perhaps the most frequent cause of bunion development is the wearing of shoes with tight, pointed toes, or with high heels that shift all of your body’s weight onto your toes and also jam your toes into your shoes’ toe boxes. It’s estimated that more than 50 percent of women have bunions caused by high-heel shoes, and that nine out of 10 people who develop bunions are women. Bunions can also develop on your little toes, in which case they are called bunionettes or tailor’s bunions.
SymptomsThe symptoms of bunions include irritated skin around the bunion, pain when walking, joint redness and pain, and possible shift of the big toe toward the other toes. Blisters may form more easily around the site of the bunion as well. Having bunions can also make it more difficult to find shoes that fit properly; bunions may force a person to have to buy a larger size shoe to accommodate the width the bunion creates. When bunion deformity becomes severe enough, the foot can hurt in different places even without the constriction of shoes because it then becomes a mechanical function problem of the forefoot.
Bunions are readily apparent – the prominence is visible at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate the condition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred. Because bunions are progressive, they don?t go away, and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike – some bunions progress more rapidly than others. Once your surgeon has evaluated your bunion, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.
Non Surgical Treatment
Several things can be done to help relive the pain of bunions. These won’t make the bunion go away, but they can make the foot more comfortable. Wearing different shoes. Shoes with a wide toe box rather than a pointed one will help. Shoes with lower heels will also help. (High heels throw more of the body’s weight on the front part of the foot where the toe joints are.) Padding. Pads placed over the bunion may help reduce the pain. These are available from a drug store or may be available from a foot and ankle surgeon. Avoiding activities that make the pain worse. This includes standing for a long time or other activities that make the bunion sore. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These include aspirin or ibuprofen. They relieve pain and swelling. Applying an ice pack to reduce swelling and pain. Corticosteroid injections. These are not often used in bunion treatment. Injecting corticosteroids sometimes helps if the bursa is inflamed. (Bursa is a fluid-filled sac within a joint to cushion the bones). Orthotic devices. These are devices placed inside a shoe that shift the positioning of the foot. Orthotics help compensate for structural issues that cause foot problems.
The decision on bunion operative treatment is usually made on the basis of the level of pain and inconvenience caused by the bunion or second toe. There is no correct answer to the question, bunion pain and inconvenience are both highly subjective. An inability to get into a formal shoe may be a major problem for a business woman or man but no problem at all for someone wearing trainers every day. However in general if a bunion is free of pain then the recommendation would not be for surgery. That said, this is not an absolute. Once a patient has read this section and appreciated what surgery and the recovery entails the patient will be in a better position to discuss the possibility of bunion surgery for their symptoms.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing a bunion is to wear shoes that fit properly. Any shoe that is too tight or too high will force your toes together and may cause the condition to develop. Shoes need to be wide enough, so they aren’t rubbing against the joint, and preferably made of leather. Avoid shoes with a lot elaborate stitching at the front, as this can also cause irritation. Heels should be no more than three to four inches and you should only wear them occasionally. Court shoes should seldomly be worn, as they do not give the foot any support. Be honest with yourself, you know if your shoes aren’t fitting you comfortably. Do something about it, or you will suffer for your vanity.