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Bunions: Causes, Prevention, and Treatments

A bunion is an enlargement on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe (hallux) —the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. A bunion forms when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of place. The toe is forced to bend toward the others, causing an often painful lump of bone on the foot.

Wearing improperly fitted shoes is partly to blame for your bunions, but your shoes are not the underlying cause. Heredity definitely plays a role as well. You do not inherit the bunion, but you inherit the foot type that may lead to bunions. Other possible causes of bunions include foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders (cerebral palsy and rheumatoid arthritis), or congenital deformities. People who suffer from flat feet or low arches are likely to develop bunions. People in occupations such as teaching, nursing, and dancing are susceptible to bunions.

Some of the signs and symptoms associated with bunions include:

  • pain on the inside of your foot at the big toe;
  • swelling;
  • redness on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint; and
  • numbness or burning in the big toe.

Conservative treatments for bunions include the following:

  • Wearing the Right Kind of Shoe — Shoes should have a wide, flexible sole to support the foot and provide enough room in the toe box to accommodate the bunion.
  • Medications — Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed by your podiatric physician to ease acute pain and inflammation.
  • Orthotic Devices — In some cases, custom orthotic devices may be provided by your podiatric physician.
  • Surgical Options — If conservative measures fail and you still have pain that interferes with daily activities, you may need surgery to active relieve pressure and return the toe joint to its normal position.

The most common types of bunion surgery include bunionectomy and osteotomy. Bunionectomy involves shaving off the enlarged portion of the bone and realigning the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Osteotomy is the preferred choice for severe bunions and involves making a cut in the bone, rotating the bone, and fixing it in place with pins and screws.

If surgery is required, your podiatric physician will discuss your surgical options as well as steps to take for a successful recuperation.

For more information about bunions, visit www.apma.org and click on Learn About Feet.

Source: Footprints, Fall 2012

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