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Bunions

What is a Bunion?

A bunion (also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus) is most commonly described as a lump on the side of the big toe, but in fact a bunion is much more than this. What this visible lump actually is; it is a visual change in the bony framework of the front part of your foot. This makes the big toe lean towards the second toe, rather than point straight out which creates the bunion because the bones are thrown out of alignment.

Bunions are a progressive disorder that begins with a leaning of the big toe which then gradually changes the angle of the bones over a period of years that produces the characteristic lump on the side of your toe. Symptoms usually occur at later stages, although some people never have any symptoms at all.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Wear shoes that fit appropriately
  • Avoid crowing your toes in your shoes
  • Avoid high heel shoes
  • Having your shoe stretched – “spot stretch”
  • Cutting an “X” in the shoe overlying the bunion
  • Try to using padding in the shoe
  • Use a bunion pad to protect the bunion from rubbing on the shoe
  • Try a splint to put the big toe back in its proper position
  • Try a spacer between the big toe and the second toe
  • Use an over the counter insole to better align the foot
  • Calf stretches
  • Ice the area (Avoid if you have circulation or sensation problems)
  • Change your activities

When Is Surgery Needed?

If the non-surgical treatments fail to relieve any bunion pain and the pain from the bunion starts interfering with your everyday living, then it’s time to start discussing surgical options with a foot or ankle surgeon. This way together you can decide what’s best for you and if the surgery will be beneficial to you.

There are a variety of surgical procedures available to you when it comes to treating bunions. These procedures are designed to remove the lump of bone and correct the changes to your bone structure in your foot. This will also correct the soft tissue that has been affected by the area. The goal of surgery is ultimately to reduce the pain you’ve been feeling.

When it comes to selecting the best procedure or combination of procedures for your particular affliction, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the full extent of your deformity based on your age, the x-rays taken, your regular level of activity, and other important factors. The length of recovery will vary depending on which procedure or combination of them that is performed.

Causes

Bunions are usually an inherited trait in most causes of a faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It’s not the bunion itself that’s inherited, but the actual foot type that makes a person prone to developing a bunion.

Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause bunions to appear, it can sometimes make the deformity get progressively worse, therefore making symptoms appear sooner.

Symptoms

Bunions are usually an inherited trait in most causes of a faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It’s not the bunion itself that’s inherited, but the actual foot type that makes a person prone to developing a bunion.

Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause bunions to appear, it can sometimes make the deformity get progressively worse, therefore making symptoms appear sooner.

  • Pain or soreness
  • Inflammation and redness
  • A burning sensation
  • Possible numbness

Symptoms will usually occur most often when wearing shoes that crowd your toes. These shoes are usually ones with a tight toe box or high heels. This is one possible explanation of why women are more likely to have symptoms rather than men. In addition to this, spending long periods of time on your feet can aggravate these symptoms of the bunions and make them much worse.

Diagnosis

Bunions are readily apparent; the prominence is visible at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. Although it’s hard to fully evaluate the condition of a bunion, the foot and ankle doctors use x-rays to determine the full extent of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred before making any decisions on the bunion. Bunions are a progressive disorder; they do not go away and will actually get worse over time if left unchecked. Not all cases are the same though, some bunions progress much faster than others. Only after a surgeon has evaluated the condition of your foot can a treatment plan be developed to suit your particular needs.

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