When we think of bunions, many of us will picture our grandmothers with their feet up on the living room table complaining about their “aching bunions.” Although bunions are more common in older people, they can occur at any...
When we think of bunions, many of us will picture our grandmothers with their feet up on the living room table complaining about their “aching bunions.” Although bunions are more common in older people, they can occur at any age.
Essentially, a bunion is an abnormality of the joint at the base of the big toe. This abnormal bony bump occurs when the big toes press against the other toes, which in turn forces the joint of the big toe in the opposite direction. As time passes, the joint enlarges due to constant pressure and irritation.
The main causes of bunions are poorly fitting shoes. High-heel shoes or shoes that are too tight or narrow may cause the toes to crowd.
Foot injuries such as bone fractures and foot deformities that are usually present at birth may also increase the risk of developing bunions. In some cases, various forms of arthritis may cause damage to the joint, which in turn can lead to the formation of a bunion.
The symptoms of a bunion are fairly easy to recognize. The most common symptom is a swollen, red and painful bump on the outside of the base of the big toe. The skin around the base of the toe may also be thickened with the development of corns and calluses. Some people also experience difficulty moving the toe. As bunions worsen, it may put sufficient pressure on other toes and cause structural abnormalities such as hammertoes. Similarly, bunions may affect the surrounding bursas, which are fluid-filled cushioning sacs. This leads to swelling of the bursa, which is called bursitis and can be very painful.
It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect the formation of a bunion. Although most bunions do not require any medical treatment, it is important to rule out other conditions.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose a bunion by simply examining your foot. If needed, your doctor may request an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment for bunions depends on the severity of the bunion and the symptoms associated with it. However, in all cases it is advised to wear proper fitting and comfortable shoes that allow ample room for your toes. In most cases, conservative treatments such as shoe inserts, padding and tapping will be explored. The goal of all of these treatments is to reduce the pressure on the toe. Medications such as anti-inflammatories and acetaminophen may be recommended to control pain and swelling.
If conservative treatments are unsuccessful, surgery may be considered. There are several different surgical procedures that may be performed in order to fix a bunion. An orthopedic surgeon will be able to discuss which procedure would work best for you. The goal of surgery is to remove the swollen and injured tissue and realign the toes of the foot. Full recovery for this type of surgery usually takes six to eight weeks.
There are a few home remedies that you can try to alleviate the pain associated with bunions. First of all, applying a non-medicated bunion pad may help reduce the irritation of the surrounding tissue. Also, regular ice application will reduce the inflammation and pain. Try to apply an ice pack two to three times a day for no more than 10 minutes at a time for best results.
As you can see, bunions are more of a nuisance than a serious medical condition. Try to keep in mind some of these simple tips and you will be well on your way to preventing them. Until next month, drive safely.