Your big toe is the hardest working toe. Every time your foot pushes off the ground, this toe supports most of your body's weight. Because the big toe is so critical to movement, any problem with it can make walking or even standing painful. A bunion (excess or misaligned bone in the joint) is one of the most common big-toe problems. In addition to causing pain, a bunion changes the shape of your foot, making it harder to find shoes that fit. But you don't have to hobble for the rest of your life. Bunions can be treated. With your doctor's help, your feet can feel and look better.
With prolonged wearing of constraining footwear your toes will adapt to the new position and lead to the deformity we know as a foot bunion. Footwear is not the only cause of a bunion. Injuries to the foot can also be a factor in developing a bunion. Poor foot arch control leading to flat feet or foot overpronation does make you biomechanically susceptible to foot bunions. A family history of bunions also increases your likelihood of developing bunions. Many people who have a bunion have a combination of factors that makes them susceptible to having this condition. For example, if you are a women over the age of forty with a family history of bunions, and often wear high-heeled shoes, you would be considered highly likely to develop a bunion.
SymptomsMany people with bunions suffer from discomfort and pain from the constant irritation, rubbing, and friction of the enlargement against shoes. The skin over the toe becomes red and tender. Because this joint flexes with every step, the bigger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Over time, bursitis or arthritis may set in, the skin on the bottom of the foot may become thicker, and everyday walking may become difficult-all contributing to chronic bunion pain.
Your doctor will ask questions about your past health and carefully examine your toe and joint. Some of the questions might be: When did the bunions start? What activities or shoes make your bunions worse? Do any other joints hurt? The doctor will examine your toe and joint and check their range of motion. This is done while you are sitting and while you are standing so that the doctor can see the toe and joint at rest and while bearing weight. X-rays are often used to check for bone problems or to rule out other causes of pain and swelling. Other tests, such as blood tests or arthrocentesis (removal of fluid from a joint for testing), are sometimes done to check for other problems that can cause joint pain and swelling. These problems might include gout , rheumatoid arthritis , or joint infection.
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.
Bunion surgery is most often performed as an out-patient, this means you go home that same day. It will likely be done at a hospital or out-patient (ambulatory) surgery center. The anesthetic choices with bunion surgery are local with sedation, spinal or general anesthesia. You wouldn?t expect that a small bunion would be treated exactly the same as a large one. Over the years, surgeons have developed dozens of methods to surgically correct bunions. But don?t worry because only a handful of methods are used today. With most bunion surgeries today, the procedure involves a combination of soft-tissue rebalancing of ligaments and tendons as well as bone work to re-align the foot structure. You may have heard people say they had their ?bunion shaved.? In most cases, the surgery often involves much more than simply shaving the bunion. The shaving part of the procedure is called an ?exostectomy? and often performed in conjunction with other methods.
If the diagnosis is made early on, such as in preadolescence, bunion development can be slowed and in some cases arrested with the proper supportive shoe gear and custom functional shoe inserts (orthotics). Avoidance of certain athletic activities with improper shoe fit and toe pressure can prevent the symptoms that occur with bunions.
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