Your Foot Health: Understanding Bunions

You might think that bunions are just for your Aunt Rita, but the truth is they can happen to anyone.  Sure, some of us are more prone to them whether it be by genetics, arthritis or a lifestyle of high heels and tight shoes.  But anyone can develop them.  A bunion is characterized by an enlarged joint and bump at the base of the big toe. 

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This can be coupled with the big toe leaning in toward the second toe, joint pain in the foot, and numbness.  As a bunion develops, the bump at the big toe joint can become red, inflamed and painful.   This makes wearing shoes and even walking difficult for some. At the same time, others may never develop any adverse symptoms from the bunions at all. 

How does it develop?

A bump develops on the outside of the big toe joint, and over time becomes more and more misaligned with the rest of the foot.  This leads to the leaning of the big toe into the other toes especially the second toe.  As this misalignment occurs, joint pain and other common symptoms can arise.  As mentioned this condition can be inherited, but is also much more common in people who have jobs or hobbies that put extra stress on the big toe joint.  A prime example being ballerinas, whose shoes and technique puts constant pressure on the big toe joint. 

Here are some common symptoms of bunions:

  • A bulging bump on the outside of the foot, at the base of the big toe
  • Big toe joint that is swollen, red and sore
  • Thickening of the skin at the site of the bunion
  • Persistent pain in the foot
  • Numbness of the big toe and foot
  • Restricted movement of the toes

Although unsightly, most bunions don’t need any special medical treatment.  Those who suffer from bunion should, however, seek medical treatment from a doctor specializing in disorders of the feet if any of the following are true:

  • Persistent or unbearable pain
  • Decreased mobility in the foot, especially in the big toe
  • A large bump on the joint of your big toe (however, if this is not bothersome you may just want to monitor it)

If you do have bunion, that seem like they may be causing issues or will in the future, there are a few things you can do.  You can treat symptoms when they first arise and try to mitigate them by wearing winder, more comfortable shoes.  You may want to opt for shoes or inserts that support and cushion the area of the foot where the bunion is.  This will usually help you avoid any pain associated with added pressure to that area. 

The right shoes, that don’t crowd the foot, can also help stave off the progression of the bunion over the long term.    Some sufferers opt for anti-inflammatory medication for help with living with the condition.  As time passes, and with no treatment or attention to a troublesome bunion, the area on the large tow can become more and more deformed and painful. 

For some, this can lead to difficulties walking which is reason for surgical intervention.  Surgery on the specific area to return the toe to its proper position can be an effective treatment for those with severe bunions. The surgery, called a bunionectomy, helps relieve pain and discomfort through the proper bone realignment.