A bunion is a painful, bony enlargement of the big toe joint where the toe stops pointing straight ahead, and begins drifting towards the little toe. The foot becomes wider, especially when compared to the heel, causing difficulty fitting shoes comfortably. Most shoes aren’t made to accommodate bunions, and soon the bony prominence becomes irritated with redness, swelling, and pain.
Bunions are a serious problem if left to progress. Besides being aesthetically unappealing, bunions left untreated usually result in secondary deformities such as painful hammertoes, calluses, and arthritis.
A bunion is most often a symptom of faulty mechanics of the foot. The deformity runs in families, but it is the foot type that is hereditary, not the bunion. Parents that have bunions should realize that because of this strong hereditary predisposition, it is important to have the children evaluated if early signs of deformity and/or discomfort are evident.
Treatments vary depending on the severity of pain and deformity. Early treatment may consist of a change in shoe style or wearing shoes made of a soft material to keep irritation away from the bunion. In-shoe, custom made orthotic devices can often help to slow the progression of a mild bunion. When conservative therapy does not provide satisfactory relief, or when the condition interferes with your activities, surgery may be necessary.
The purpose of bunion surgery is to not only reduce pain, but also to remove the painful prominence of bone and realign the joint to restore normal function. Guidelines for bunion surgery vary from simple to complex, depending on the severity of the deformity and the presence of arthritic changes within the joint. Procedures vary from simple removal of the bony enlargement with realignment of ligaments and tendons surrounding the joint, to cutting of the bone and shifting it to a proper position, and possibly fusion of a joint. If it is necessary to cut bone or fuse a joint, the correction will typically be maintained with screws. Many times a slipper or short leg cast is worn from three to four weeks, with walking assisted by crutches. The foot, after surgery, should better serve as a propulsive structure and carry the weight of the body in a more efficient manner.
Bunion surgery may be performed at a hospital or surgical center. The surgeons at Southern California Foot and Ankle Center are on staff at many convenient locations to perform outpatient bunion surgery.
In office physical therapy prescribed by your surgeon will aid the surgical area to regain its flexibility, reduce postoperative swelling and inflammation, and speed healing.
If you have been suffering from bunions, and would like to know what can be done to correct the problem, or have any further questions, please contact the physicians of Southern California Foot and Ankle Center, at any of our convenient locations.