Bunions are one of the most common foot ailments treated by doctors of podiatric medicine, affecting women more often than men. There are numerous conservative and surgical treatment options that podiatrists can provide to patients with bunions. But first off, is that bump a bunion?
A bunion is indeed a bump on the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of the big toe. It 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 a potentially painful lump of bone on the foot. Because this joint bears a lot of weight while walking, bunions can be quite painful if left untreated. Bunions can also occur on the outside of the foot by the little toe, where it is called a bunionette.
According to Dr. Robert A. Russo, President of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association (NYSPMA), bunions form when the normal balance of forces exerted on the joints and tendons of the foot become disrupted. “Bunions occur after years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint,” said Dr. Russo. “Bunions tend to run in families and can be caused by the way we walk and our inherited foot type.”
Shoes, especially pointy high heels, can also lead to bunion problems. Wearing shoes that are too tight or that cause the toes to be squeezed together is a common factor for women with this condition. Men can also be afflicted with bunions, however due to the shoes worn by men, their bunions may be less bothersome.
Other causes of bunions are foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders or congenital deformities. People who suffer from arthritis or other inflammatory joint disease are prone to developing bunions.
Foot pain is never normal, so if it persists, podiatric medical treatment should be sought. Bunions tend to get larger and more painful if left untreated. Treatment options vary with the severity of the condition. Padding and taping, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and orthotics can provide relief. Early treatments can help prevent or slow the progression of bunions in many cases.
When the bunion progresses past the threshold for such options, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure and repair the toe joint. There are several surgical procedures available depending on the severity of the condition. The podiatrist will discuss options that are best for your unique situation and answer questions regarding recuperation.