A bunion is an often painful enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the base of the big toe. If you have a bunion, you will notice a bump on your big toe joint. The big toe may turn in toward the second toe and the tissues surrounding the joint may be swollen and tender. Bunions can come from a variety of causes, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or foot mechanics that place too much load on the ball of your foot. If untreated, bunions can worsen, leading to other serious complications, and even potentially require surgery. Early treatment is best, so if you?re suffering from bunions it?s smart to see a podiatrist for proper treatment and care.
Long periods of pressure from a tight-fitting shoe can cause the inflammation and the pain. This often happens when the big toe is forced into a position where it presses inward and overlaps the second toe. The base of the big toe then is pushed beyond normal alignment of the foot, resulting in the prominence typical of a bunion.
Most patients complain of pain directly on the bunion area, within the big toe joint, and/or on the bottom of the foot. The bunion may become irritated, red, warm, swollen and/or callused. The pain may be dull and mild or severe and sharp. The size of the bunion doesn?t necessarily result in more pain. Pain is often made worse by shoes, especially shoes that crowd the toes. While some bunions may result in significant pain, other bunions may not be painful at all.
Looking at the problem area on the foot is the best way to discover a bunion. If it has the shape characteristic of a bunion, this is the first hint of a problem. The doctor may also look at the shape of your leg, ankle, and foot while you are standing, and check the range of motion of your toe and joints by asking you to move your toes in different directions A closer examination with weight-bearing X-rays helps your doctor examine the actual bone structure at the joint and see how severe the problem is. A doctor may ask about the types of shoes you wear, sports or activities (e.g., ballet) you participate in, and whether or not you have had a recent injury. This information will help determine your treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Sometimes observation of the bunion is all that?s needed. To reduce the chance of damage to the joint, periodic evaluation and x-rays by your surgeon are advised. In many other cases, however, some type of treatment is needed. Early treatments are aimed at easing the pain of bunions, but they won?t reverse the deformity itself. These include changes in shoewear. Wearing the right kind of shoes is very important. Choose shoes that have a wide toe box and forgo those with pointed toes or high heels which may aggravate the condition. Padding. Pads placed over the area of the bunion can help minimize pain. These can be obtained from your surgeon or purchased at a drug store. Activity modifications. Avoid activity that causes bunion pain, including standing for long periods of time. Medications. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Icing. Applying an ice pack several times a day helps reduce inflammation and pain. Injection therapy. Although rarely used in bunion treatment, injections of corticosteroids may be useful in treating the inflamed bursa (fluid-filled sac located around a joint) sometimes seen with bunions. Orthotic devices. In some cases, custom orthotic devices may be provided by the foot and ankle surgeon.
Surgery can be a very successful treatment for bunions and could be considered if you are having pain that is affecting your function on a regular basis, for instance, pain during sports or wearing work shoes. It is important, however, that you are seen by a consultant orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon who has undergone specialist training with a foot and ankle fellowship. There are many different surgical techniques and it is important that your surgeon is expert in several of these so that you have the one that is best for your unique deformity. Bunion removal is usually done under general anesthesia. This means you will be asleep throughout the procedure. The operation can be performed as a day-case, but an overnight stay in hospital is sometimes required. Your surgeon will explain the benefits and risks of having bunion surgery, and will also discuss the alternatives treatments.
The simplest way to reduce your chance of developing foot bunion or bunionette problems is to wear good-fitting shoes. Avoid high heels as they push your feet forwards to the front of the shoe where they get squashed. Also avoid narrow fitting shoes, especially those that are pointed at the front with a narrow toe box as again, these place pressure through the toes pushing them inwards. Shoes should be comfortable and leave enough room for you to wiggle your toes. Remember, bunions rarely affect non-shoe wearing people. Exercising your feet can also help. By strengthening the foot muscles you can improve your foot position which can help reduce foot bunion problems. Simple exercises like picking up small objects with your toes can help.