Bunions involve boney prominences and repositioning of the joints at the base of the big toes. Bunions most commonly affect the inner foot at the base of the big toe but also can affect the outside of the foot at the base of the little toe, referred to as a bunionette or tailor’s bunion. Bunions most commonly affect women. Bunions may or may not cause symptoms. Treatment of bunions can include rest, icing, alteration offootwear, foot supports (orthotics), medications, steroid injections, and or surgery.
By far the most common cause of bunions is the prolonged wearing of poorly fitting shoes, usually shoes with a narrow, pointed toe box that squeezes the toes into an unnatural position. Bunions also may be caused by arthritis or polio. Heredity often plays a role in bunion formation. But these causes account for only a small percentage of bunions. A study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society found that 88 percent of women in the U.S. wear shoes that are too small and 55 percent have bunions. Not surprisingly, bunions are nine times more common in women than men.
Pain in the toe joint and surrounding area. Painful to touch or press, and when walking. Growth of a bony lump (exostosis) at the side of the big toe joint. Irritated skin around the bunion. Redness. Thickening of overlying skin. Blisters may form more easily. Deformed bones, joints and ligaments as the big toe shifts towards the other toes. As the big toe shifts, its base becomes more prominent, forming the bunion. Eventually the big toe is forced to lie over, or more commonly under, the second toe. The second toe of patients who have bunions commonly forms a hammer toe. Trouble with shoes. It is difficult to find shoes that fit properly. Bunions may force you to buy a larger size shoe to accommodate the width the bunion creates. Eventually it hurts to wear any shoe, or even walk barefoot.
Diagnosis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor. This will usually include a discussion about shoe wear and the importance of shoes in the development and treatment of the condition. X-rays will probably be suggested. This allows your doctor to measure several important angles made by the bones of the feet to help determine the appropriate treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initial treatment of bunions may include wearing comfortable, well-fitting footwear (particularly shoes that conform to the shape of the foot and do not cause pressure areas) or the use of splints and orthotics (special shoe inserts shaped to your feet) to reposition the big toe. For bunions caused by arthritis, medications may help reduce pain and swelling. If nonsurgical treatment fails, your doctor may suggest surgery, which resolves the problem in nearly all persons. The goal of surgery is to relieve pain and correct as much deformity as possible. The surgery is not cosmetic and is not meant to improve the appearance of the foot. Other related procedures that may be used to help diagnose foot disorders include X-rays of the bone and foot.
Many studies have found that 85 to 90 percent of patients who undergo bunion surgery are satisfied with the results. Fewer than 10 percent of patients experience complications from bunion surgery. Possible complications can include infection, recurrence of the bunion, nerve damage, and continued pain. If complications occur, they are treatable but may affect the extent of your full recovery.
To help prevent bunions, select your style and size of shoes wisely. Choose shoes with a wide toe area and a half-inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Shoes also should conform to the shape of your feet without causing too much pressure.
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