Bunions are bony protrusions usually found on the base of the big toe right at the joint. By pressing against your next toe, the joint of your big toe becomes larger and sticks out. The skin over the big toe joint may become red and swollen or sore. You may also develop bunions on the joints of your other toes, but they are more commonly found on the big toe joints.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, though there are many theories. Most people think bunions form because of wearing high heels or shoes that are too tight, but experts disagree. Medical professionals think that high heels and tight shoes merely contribute to the development of bunions, but they are not the root cause. The root cause is often thought to be a hereditary condition.
Bunions are associated with rheumatoid arthritis, which is known to cause deformities in the joints over time. Gout is also another health condition that can lead to the development of bunions. Factors that contribute to the development of bunions include:
Though bunions do not always cause other foot problems, they can lead to the following complications:
How to treat bunions
A few at-home remedies can be used to ease the pain and discomfort of bunions. These include:
1. Grasp your big toe firmly and rotate it in a wide circle, as wide as you can comfortably do so, for ten to fifteen seconds in a clock-wise direction. Repeat in a counter clock-wise direction.
2. With a hair tie or wide rubber band looped around both big toes, turn the feet outwards and stretch the big toes and hold for one minute. Relax for one minute and then repeat for one minute; relax and repeat for a total of five times.
3. With a towel on a carpeted floor, curl your toes to pull the towel toward you, using all your toes. Repeat this in the morning and evening.
4. Wrap a towel around the big toe and gently pull it towards you, resisting the pull of the towel with your toe. Pull and resist for five seconds; rest and repeat for a total of 15 times.
If you have tried the home treatments listed and still have the following problems, it is time to get in touch with your primary health care provider:
Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of bunions permanently is to have surgery. Most people do not want to resort to a surgical procedure unless they have quite a bit of severe pain that is not alleviated by the above methods. There are more than 150 different types of surgical procedures to treat bunions. Most involve cutting out the bunion itself. There are also procedures that remove bones from the surrounding toes and inserting screws, pins or wires instead.
Recovery time after bunion surgery can last three months or longer. Recovering patients must remain immobile, as their feet are typically swollen and need to be raised. The success rate in alleviating bunions with surgery is 80%, and one in ten people have reported complications. Some complications include the return of the bunions, no relief from painful bunion symptoms and the requirement of further surgery.
If you have a hereditary condition that involves bunions, see a podiatrist or a chiropodist for regular checks of your feet. A podiatrist is a specialized doctor who treats conditions of the foot. If you are an avid runner, you may need to switch to a lower impact form of exercise.
People who are prone to developing bunions should invest in some orthotic insoles and wear them when exercising as well as going about daily life. Avoiding shoes that have pointed toes or a narrow fit can also help to prevent bunions. Look for shoes with low or no heels and a soft insole. Shoes with plenty of toe room can also prevent bunions from forming.