Bunions: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Options

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If you suffer from foot pain that comes on intermittently and have noticed decreased mobility in your big toe, you may be developing a bunion, a common foot condition that can cause significant discomfort in certain individuals. While many people with bunions are able to manage their symptoms by changing their footwear and minimizing pressure on the toes, the condition is permanent and can lead to complications such as foot inflammation and toe abnormalities if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for those who suffer from bunions that can help to relieve discomfort and prevent future issues. Treatment for bunions depends on the extent of the condition, so it is always best for sufferers to consult with a podiatrist when they first begin experiencing symptoms. Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of bunions and how the condition can be treated. 

What Are Bunions and What Causes Them?

Bunions are hard, bony growths that develop at the bottom of the big toe on the side of the foot where the joints meet. The condition occurs when pressure causes the big toe to press against the second toe, which in turn causes the big toe joint to expand. Over time, the constant pressure causes a bony bump to form around the joint. In many cases, the growth expands to the point where the base of the toe joint becomes misshapen, making it difficult to wear shoes due to constant pressure and pain. Bunions can be caused by a variety of factors that include injuries to the foot that cause the big toe to overlap the second toe, natural foot deformities and heredity. Individuals who wear ill-fitting shoes or high-heels that constrict the toes on a continual basis may also be at higher risk of developing bunions. 

Symptoms of Bunions

The most common symptom of a bunion is a solid growth beneath the skin at the base of the big toe. The bump may be inflamed, swollen and painful. Individuals with bunions may also develop callused skin on the overlapping areas of the big toe and second toe. Additional symptoms include decreased foot mobility and difficulty walking due to persistent pain. It is common for bunion sufferers to cut holes in the sides of their shoes to make room for the bony growths and minimize pain and pressure. 

Treatment Options

Individuals with minor bunions that don't cause severe pain can often find relief by wearing comfortable shoes with additional room in the toe area, as well as with custom-fit orthotic devices that are placed inside the shoes to help take weight and pressure off of the toes. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help to minimize swelling and inflammation of the big toe joint. Bunion sufferers may also find relief by applying ice packs to the toe joint and elevating the feet.

If non-surgical treatments do not help to relieve pain and discomfort, surgery to remove the growths and re-align the toes may be recommended. Specific surgical procedures can vary, depending on the extent of the condition. Surgical options include bunionectomy procedures in which the bony growth is completely removed, joint fusion procedures that fuse the toe joints together to minimize pain, bone realignment procedures and tendon realignment procedures. 

Optimal Foot Health 

While bunions are not considered life-threatening or dangerous, the condition can be extremely uncomfortable for certain individuals and can often lead to additional foot complications if left untreated. Understanding what causes bunions and discussing your symptoms with a professional podiatrist can help to ensure a beneficial treatment solution, allowing for relief from discomfort and optimal foot health.