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Bunions (Hallux Valgus)

Many people unnecessarily suffer the consequences of bunion foot deformity for years before seeking professional help. It is a common problem affecting mostly women because they may wear tight, pointed, and confining shoes.

What Is a Bunion?

A bunion is a visible bump at the side of the big toe or at the base of the little toe. This reflects changes in the bony framework of the front part of the foot and often occurs when the joint is stressed over a period of time. Bunions begin with a leaning of the big toe, gradually changing the angle of the bones over the years. This throws the bones out of alignment, producing the bunion’s characteristic bump.

Bunions are a progressive disorder. Symptoms usually appear at later stages, although some people never develop symptoms.

 

Causes

Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes does not actually cause bunions, it sometimes causes the deformity to progressively worsen. Symptoms may, therefore, appear sooner.

Bunions may develop from the following:

  • Your foot rolls inward too much when you walk. A moderate amount of inward roll or pronation is normal. Damage and injury can happen with too much pronation.
  • You have flat feet.
  • You often wear shoes that are too tight.

All of these may put pressure on the big toe joint. Over time, the constant pressure forces the big toe out of alignment, bending it toward the other toes.

 

Symptoms

Symptoms, which occur at the site of the bunion, may include:

  • Pain or soreness
  • Inflammation and redness
  • A burning sensation
  • Possible numbness

Symptoms occur most often when wearing shoes that crowd the toes, such as shoes with a tight toe box or high heels. This may explain why women are more likely to develop symptoms than men. In addition, spending long periods of time on your feet can worsen a bunion.

 

Diagnosis

Bunions can be diagnosed by sight. A bump will be visible at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate the condition, we may take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred. Because bunions are progressive, they do not go away on their own and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike; some bunions progress more rapidly than others. Once we have evaluated your bunion, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.

 

When Is Surgery Needed?

You may have to consider surgery if your bunion results in persistent, severe pain that limits your daily activities, or if you have a severe foot deformity. Together we can decide if surgery is best for you. A variety of surgical procedures are available to treat bunions. The procedures are designed to remove the bump caused by the bone, correct the changes in the bony structure of the foot, and correct soft tissue changes that may also have occurred. The goal of surgery is the reduction of pain and deformity. In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, we will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.

 

Our Approach

Bunion surgery generally involves making an incision around the joint of the big toe and removing or realigning soft tissue and bone.

The goals of bunion surgery include:

  • Relieve pain and restore normal alignment to the toe joint.
  • Restore, as much as possible, normal weight-bearing distribution to the foot.
  • Allow you to return to normal activities.

 

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