Bunions, or bony bumps that jut out from the base of the big toe joints, are the product of a progressive bone disorder. They develop due to a structural problem in the bones of the feet and toes, usually in the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. The phalangeal bone of the big toe slips upward and inward, inclining toward the second toe and pushing it to the side. The metacarpal bone beneath slides outward, creating the bump. Bunions can also occur near the base of the pinky toe, where they’re known as “tailor’s bunions.”
A 2014 systematic research review suggested that about 2% percent of children under age 10 have this condition, as do almost half of all adults. Some people never develop symptoms, but for others, the pain and stiffness can interfere with daily activities.
Here at Monroe Foot & Ankle Care in Jamesburg, New Jersey, podiatric physician and surgeon Dr. Elliott Perel and his team treat the entire Monroe Township area for all kinds of foot problems, including bunions, with both conservative and surgical interventions. But Dr. Perel believes that preventing bunions from occurring in the first place is better than any treatment he can provide. Here’s what he wants you to know about the condition.
What causes bunions?
Many doctors believe genetics plays a large role in developing bunions, with people inheriting the bone structure that predisposes them to the condition. In a 2007 study, 83% of people with bunions had a family history of bunions. In addition, about the same number had bunions on both feet, suggesting that the shape and function of their feet (inherited traits) increased their bunion risk.
Additional causes of bunion development include:
- Overpronation: Having a low arch or uneven weight-bearing, making the toe joint unstable
- Hypermobility: Having a big toe bone that moves more than usual
- Foot injuries, repetitive stress, and overuse injuries
- Inflammatory forms of arthritis
- Conditions affecting both the nerves and muscles, such as polio
- Improper fetal foot development
High-heeled or narrow shoes are often cited as a primary cause of bunion growth since bunions occur almost 10 times more frequently in women. However, while heels may contribute to bunions developing in people with inherited risk factors, they don’t cause bunion growth directly. They do, on the other hand, aggravate already-existing bunions.
What symptoms do bunions produce?
Pain, redness, and soreness are some of the most common symptoms of bunions. The pain can be mild or severe, and it may come and go. It might also get progressively worse if the bunions are left untreated.
Other symptoms include:
- Swelling at the affected joint
- A burning sensation
- Corns and calluses
- Increased skin thickness at the bottom of the affected toe
- Hardened skin under the foot
- Restriction of movement within the affected toe
There are also a number of possible complications, including:
This painful condition develops when the small fluid-filled pads that cushion the bones near the joints become inflamed.
The pressure of the big toe against the next toe can cause an abnormal bend in the middle joint of the second toe, leading to pain, pressure, and calluses where the joint rubs against the top of your shoe.
This condition affects the ball of your foot, resulting in pain and swelling.
How are bunions treated?
Conservative bunion treatments include rest; icing; padding, taping, or splinting the toe; wearing shoes with roomier toe space so as not to press on the joint; foot supports (orthotics); over-the-counter medications; and steroid injections into the bursae around the joint.
While conservative treatments offer relief, bunions are a progressive deformity, and the only way to truly correct them is with surgery. Dr. Perel is a board-certified foot surgeon, and he offers bunion correction surgery on an outpatient basis. You can go home the same day as your procedure, and you’ll begin walking on your foot just a few days later.
How can you prevent bunions from occurring?
Just because you may have inherited genes for developing bunions doesn’t mean you can’t prevent the pain and complications that come with them. Here are some ideas:
- Pad the bunion or use orthotics: Moleskine makes a good cushion.
- Wear shoes with a wide toebox: Your toes should move around comfortably.
- Make sure the shoe fits correctly: Look for heel and arch support as well as a wide toebox.
- Avoid high heels: They force the toes to be pushed together, causing pressure and deformity.
- Rest your feet: Take your shoes off periodically to allow your feet some space.
Are you suffering from bunion pain and discomfort and looking for some relief? Contact Monroe Foot & Ankle Care to learn more about your options. You can also schedule an appointment by calling 732-328-6798 or by booking online.