For some reason, people often tend to try to ignore bunions. While patients might seek medical help immediately for an ingrown toenail or fungal infection, bunions are considered a normal, if aggravating, part of getting old.
It’s only when walking becomes painful or the patient can’t find comfortable shoes anymore that they may realize they should have a medical evaluation and treatment for their bunions.
The word ‘bunion’ conjurs up a vision of a bump beside the big toe. But the problem goes deeper than that, beginning with changes in the bones of the foot. The big toe starts to lean inward rather than pointing straight ahead, and gradually a bump forms on the side of the foot. This can make walking painful. Bunions are inherited but only because certain types of feet tend to run in families.
Bunions are unsightly. Some of our patients report they don’t feel comfortable wearing open shoes, flip-flops or sandals. But when they become can become red or irritated, they represent a problem that’s more than cosmetic.
Bunions may be a fact of life, but there are ways to minimize the pain and irritation.
Front-Line Treatment For Bunions is Awareness
If you notice a bunion forming, it’s time to check your footwear. Especially for people who are on their feet all day— waitresses, for instance, or hair stylists— comfortable, well-fitting shoes are a must.
Choose shoes with a wide toe box and avoid pointed toes or high heels. Never endure tight shoes, no matter how fashionable they seem. You’ll pay the price in comfort. If you are a runner or if you participate in a sport, such as golf, make sure to wear comfortable, appropriate footwear. Ignoring the pain of a bunion can lead to changes in your gait, which can cause other foot problems.
For bunions that are already irritated, you can apply an ice pack to reduce inflammation. The doctor may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen. There are pads available that are worn over the bunion and reduce irritation. Ask our staff where you can buy them.
Bunions Are Not Just Found in Aging Feet
Bunions and bunionettes (small bumps on the sides of the little toes) tend to occur with other foot problems such as corns, calluses and hammer toes. Since a bunion is actually a deformed big toe (called the metatarsophalangeal joint), it flexes with every step. The larger the bunion, the more it hurts to walk. Some patients develop bursitis, which is an inflammation in the foot. Others notice that their other toes are becoming deformed.
For most patients, conservative treatment can reduce irritation. If the bunion has gotten to the point where it hurts to walk or stand for any length of time, your doctor may advise surgery.
Bunions are not exclusive to aging feet. Children (especially young teenage girls) can develop bunions. Unlike older people’s bunions, adolescent bunions don’t restrict movement of the big toe. If your child complains of pain and uncomfortable shoes, make an appointment with the doctor.
People with arthritis or flat feet (fallen arches) are prone to bunions. Other risk factors include neuromuscular disease and foot injuries.
Examine Your Feet for Bumps and Bunions
You can tell if you are developing a bunion by checking your feet often. If you notice a bump at the base of the big toe; or if there is redness, swelling or pain in that area; or if your feet are irritated by overlapping toes… it’s time to call the clinic for an appointment.
Don’t wait until a bunion has grown from a small annoyance to major foot problems.