Bunions are a common foot condition that affects millions of people worldwide. However, there are still many misconceptions surrounding the condition. Many people may suffer needlessly for years before seeking treatment. In this article, we will discuss what bunions are, the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options available.
What is a Bunion?
A bunion, also known as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus, is a bump or deformity that appears on the side of the big toe. However, a bunion is more than just a bump. It is a condition that results from changes in the bony framework of the front part of the foot. The big toe leans towards the second toe, causing a misalignment of the bones and producing the bunion’s “bump.”
Bunions are a progressive disorder. This means that the condition gradually worsens over time. The earlier that symptoms are detected, the easier it is to treat. Symptoms may not appear in the early stages, but eventually, they will become more apparent.
Bunions are often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. Although the bunion itself is not inherited, certain foot types make a person prone to developing a bunion. Wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t cause bunions itself, it can, however, make the condition progressively worse. This is why the symptoms may appear earlier if shoes that are tight or have a high heel are worn.
Symptoms of bunions occur at the site of the bunion, which may include pain, inflammation and redness, a burning sensation, and possible numbness. Symptoms are more apparent when wearing shoes that crowd the toes, with women more likely to experience symptoms than men.
A foot and ankle specialist can diagnose bunions easily by evaluating your foot. The prominence of the bunion is readily visible at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to get a clear picture of the condition, the specialist may require an x-ray of the affected foot. X-rays will help determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred.
Observation of the bunion is sometimes enough to manage symptoms. Periodic evaluations and x-rays are recommended to reduce the chances of joint damage. Other non-surgical treatments aimed at reducing pain and inflammation, though not reversing the deformity itself, include proper footwear, padding, activity modification, medication, icing, injection therapy, and orthotic devices.
When Is Surgery Needed?
Surgical intervention may be required if non-surgical treatments fail to relieve bunion pain, or when the pain interferes with daily activities. A foot and ankle specialist will discuss surgical options to identify the best procedure to remove the bony bump, correct the changes in the structure of the foot, and correct the soft tissue changes that may have occurred. The goal of surgery is to reduce pain.
What To Expect After Bunion Surgery?
Bunion surgery is mostly done as an outpatient procedure, which means that you will be released on the same day. However, several factors impact success, including selecting a surgeon with extensive experience in bunionectomies, being realistic about your expectations, and understanding that surgery alone may not be enough to achieve the desired outcome.
Following surgery, patients can expect to undergo a long healing and recovery period, often involving physical therapy. Patients should avoid strenuous exercise and wear special footwear to maintain alignment and promote healing. Sutures are removed two weeks after the surgery, and physical therapy may be recommended at that stage. By the third or fourth week, swelling should subside enough for the patient to wear a wide athletic shoe. Patients should continue to follow the surgeon’s instructions and gradually increase activities until they are back to normal.
Bunions are a common condition that affects the feet. The earlier you detect the symptoms, the easier it is to treat the condition. If non-surgical intervention is not effective, surgery may be required. If you experience any symptoms of bunions, book an appointment with Dr Gilbert Huang DPM, who has extensive experience in treating patients with foot and ankle conditions.