Bunion Deformity & Treatment

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Bunions, or enlargements of the joint at the base of the big toe, are characterized by a number of painful symptoms such as redness and swelling, overlapping first and second toes, or restricted and/or painful movement of the big toe.

In terms of bunion treatment, there are both conservative and surgical treatment options. The podiatrists and surgeons of AFACC always try conservative treatment first and only suggest surgery when absolutely necessary.

To learn what options are best for you, find the AFACC podiatry clinic nearest you or fill out the appointment form. For more information on bunion deformity, symptoms, pain relief tips and treatment options, read below.

What Exactly is a Bunion?

A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe that forms when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint (the metatarsophalangeal or MTP joint) moves out of place. This forces the toe to bend toward the others, causing an often painful lump of bone on the foot. Since this joint carries a lot of the body’s weight while walking, bunions can cause extreme pain if left untreated. The MTP joint itself may become stiff and sore, making even the wearing of shoes difficult or impossible. A bunion–from the Latin “bunio,” meaning enlargement–can also occur on the outside of the foot along the little toe, where it is called a “bunionette” or Tailor’s bunion.

Bunion Symptoms

Standard Bunion Deformity

  • Development of a firm bump on the outside edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe.
  • Redness, swelling, or pain at or near the MTP joint.
  • Corns or other irritations caused by the overlap of the first and second toes.
  • Restricted or painful motion of the big toe.

Tailor’s Bunion Deformity

  • Development of a firm bump on the outside edge of the foot, at the base of the little toe.
  • Redness, swelling, or pain at or near the MTP joint.
  • Corns or other irritations caused by the overlap of the fourth and fifth toes.
  • Restricted or painful motion of the little toe.

What Causes a Bunion?

Bunions form when the normal balance of forces that is exerted on the joints and tendons of the foot becomes disrupted. This can lead to instability in the joint and cause the deformity. They are brought about by years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint. They are, therefore, a symptom of faulty foot development and are usually caused by the way we walk, and our inherited foot type, our shoes, or other sources.

Other bunion causes include:

  • Foot injuries
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Congenital deformities

Who’s most susceptible?

  • People who suffer from flat feet or low arches
  • Arthritic patients
  • Those with inflammatory joint disease
  • People whose occupations place undue stress on the feet such as ballet dancers

Wearing shoes that are too tight or cause the toes to be squeezed together is also a common factor, one that explains the high prevalence of the disorder among women.

Conservative Treatment For Bunion Pain

Treatment options vary with the type and severity of each bunion, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important in avoiding surgery. Podiatric medical attention should be sought at the first indication of pain or discomfort because, left untreated, bunions tend to get larger and more painful, making nonsurgical treatment less of an option.

The primary goal of most early treatment options is to relieve pressure on the bunion and halt the progression of the joint deformity. A podiatric physician may recommend these treatments:

Medication
Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections are often prescribed to ease the acute pain and inflammations caused by joint deformities.

Orthotics
Shoe inserts may be useful in controlling foot function and may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.

Bunion Surgery & Recovery

When early treatments fail or the bunion progresses past the threshold for such options, podiatric surgery may become necessary to relieve pressure and repair the toe joint. Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatric physician. The surgery will remove the bony enlargement, restore the normal alignment of the toe joint, and relieve pain.

A simple bunionectomy, in which only the bony prominence is removed, may be used for the less severe deformity. Severe bunions may require a more involved procedure, which includes cutting the bone and realigning the joint.

Recuperation takes time, and swelling and some discomfort are common for several weeks following surgery. Pain, however, is easily managed with medications prescribed by your podiatric physician.

Bunion Tips

  • Wear comfortable shoes that conform to the shape of your foot.
  • Wear shoes with a wide and deep toe box.
  • Always fit the larger foot and have your feet sized each time you purchase shoes.
  • Apply a commercial, non-medicated bunion pad around the bony prominence.
  • If your bunion becomes inflamed and painful, apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling.
  • Avoid high-heeled shoes over two inches tall.
  • Seek professional podiatric evaluation and assistance with uncomfortable or noticeable bunions.

For more information about Bunions or to have your foot issues assessed, contact us today to schedule an appointment at the AFACC clinic nearest you.

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