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Bunions are an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint). Because this joint flexes with every step, many people with bunions suffer pain from friction and pressure when wearing shoes. The bigger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk.
Over time, arthritis may set in. The big toe can deform and angle inwards, sometimes overlapping another toe. Bunions can also lead to other toe deformities, such as hammertoes.
Bunions tend to run in families. Footwear choices also play a role. Wearing shoes that are tight and cause the toes to be squeezed together can worsen a bunion. Flat feet and foot injuries can also contribute to their formation. It is estimated that bunions occur in 33 percent of the population in Western countries.
Treatment for Bunions
Because they are bone deformities, bunions do not resolve by themselves. Conservative methods for reducing pressure and pain caused by bunions include:
- Protective padding to eliminate the friction against shoes and help alleviate inflammation and skin problems.
- Changing to footwear designed to accommodate the bunion and not contribute toward its growth.
- Orthotics (shoe inserts) may be useful in controlling foot function to prevent worsening and relieve the stress around a bunion.
- Exercises to maintain joint mobility and prevent stiffness.
- Anti-inflammatory medication to alleviate pain and inflammation.
Depending on the size of the enlargement, misalignment of the toe, and pain experienced, conservative treatments may not be adequate. In these cases, bunion surgery, known as a bunionectomy, is needed to remove the bunion and realign the toe. This requires an thorough evaluation in our office, where x-rays will be taken to determine the severity of this joint deformity.
Skokie Foot & Ankle Specialists, Ltd.
9933 Lawler Ave., Suite 315
Skokie, Illinois 60077