What are Bunions?

Bunions are a very common disorder. This disorder is characterized by a bony bump on the joint at the base of the great toe. The bunion develops when your great toe pushes against your next toe. It forces the exterior of the joint to grow larger and protrude from the normal structure of the foot. The skin over the bunion can become red and inflamed. Over time, it can become extremely painful.

For people with bunions, it is important to wear shoes that fit properly. Wearing tight fitting shoes or improperly fitted shoes, can cause the bunion to grow larger and more painful. This condition can also develop due to genetic reasons. The main cause is inherited structural defects in the feet that causes stress on your foot. Another common reason for the condition is an underlying medical condition, like arthritis.

What are the Symptoms of Bunions?

There are many signs and symptoms of bunions. However, the most common sign is a visual alteration of the joint in the great toe.

Symptoms include

  • Visual alteration of the joint in the great toe
  • A bump or bulge on the exterior base of your big toe
  • Soreness, swelling or redness around the base joint in your big toe
  • Thickening of the skin in the same joint
  • Development of corns or calluses – most common at the location of overlap of the first and second toe
  • Pain, either persistent or intermittent
  • Restricted movement or lose of free movement in your big toe

Bunion Causes

A bunion forms from a deformity in the joint of your big toe. The cause isn’t clear, but it is believed to be related to genetics and arthritis. It also tends to occur with conditions such as cerebral palsy and Marfan syndrome. Consistently wearing shoes that are too small also causes bunions. In turn, bunions can cause arthritis in the big toe.

If other family members have bunions, you have a greater chance of getting them too. Certain types of arthritis are thought to cause bunions. Rheumatoid arthritis yields inflammation and pain in your joints because your immune system attacks the joint lining, while gout typically affects the big toe. Finally, psoriatic arthritis is associated with psoriasis and can also trigger bunions.

Many other conditions can increase your chance of getting bunions. They include flexible joints, loose ligaments and low muscle tone.

How is Bunions Treated?

Depending on the type and severity of the bunions you are experiencing, your doctor will choose to approach it with either conservative treatments, or surgical treatments. Generally, your doctor will choose the form of treatment based on the severity of pain you are experiencing from the condition.

Conservative Treatments

Non-surgical treatments may provide relief from the condition.

Changing your Shoe Type

It is important to wear roomy, comfortable shoes that allow your toes to sit comfortably in your shoe without pressing against the edge.

Padding, Taping, and Splinting the Toes

By using these methods, your doctor will place your foot and toes back into the correct position. This can relieve stress and prevent the bunion from becoming larger.

Other conservative treatments involve:

  • Medications
  • Special inserts for your shoes
  • Icing the affected area to reduce inflammation

Surgical Treatment Options

If your doctor is not able to provide relief with non-surgical options, he may consider surgical correction of the area.

The purpose of surgical treatment is:

  • To remove the inflamed tissue from around the joint.
  • To remove part of the bony structure to straighten the big toe.
  • To realign the bones between your foot and your toe.
  • To join the bones of the affected joint

Many patients find that they are able to walk on the affected foot right after the surgery has been completed. However, the healing process can take several weeks, possibly months to be completely comfortable.

Bunion Prevention

Good shoes can go a long way in preventing bunions. Choose footwear with wide toe boxes, low or no heels and great arch support. Tight, narrow, or high-heeled shoes place pressure on your big toe joint.

It’s also important to select shoes that prevent the foot from rolling inward (pronation) when you walk or run. Excessive foot pronation can cause bunions to form. To prevent excessive pronation, buy only supportive shoes or use arch supports. You can also ask your doctor where to go for orthotic shoe inserts.

If you do develop a bunion, there are some things you can try to prevent it from getting worse, such as bunion pads or orthopedic supports placed behind the big toe. This device fits on the bottom of your foot and redistributes your weight, taking pressure off your big toe. Your doctor can help by recommending an effective strategy.

You can also stretch any parts of your shoes that can press or rub against painful areas. Some shoe repair shops have the equipment to stretch shoes. Even better, you can look for a shoe manufacturer that sells customized shoes based on measurements taken of each foot.