What exactly is a Bunion? And why is it called that?
When the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of place it forces your big toe to bend toward your other toes, causing a large, often painful lump of bone on the outside of your foot. This lump is called a bunion from the Latin word “bunio” meaning enlargement.

What causes a Bunion?

Sometimes the pressures of bearing and shifting your weight fall unevenly on the joints and tendons in your feet. This imbalance in pressure makes your big toe joint unstable and forms a bunion.

Because nine out of 10 bunions happen to women and somewhere from one third to more than one half of American women suffer from bunions, this common deformity has repeatedly been blamed on wearing shoes that are too tight, too narrow and high heeled. Yet findings from the recent Framingham Foot Study conclude that bunions and similar foot disorders are “highly inheritable,” meaning the main cause of bunions lies in your genetic makeup.

Still, though not the direct cause of the problem, ill-fitting shoes make the symptoms and pain associated with your bunion worse.

What are common symptoms?

With a bunion, the base of your big toe gets larger and sticks out. You may notice the following:

  • Red and tender skin
  • Wearing shoes may be painful
  • Bursitis (painful swelling)
  • Big toe may angle toward your second toe
  • Bottom of your foot may become thicker and painful
  • Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment
  • Foot may look deformed
  • Difficulty walking
  • Chronic pain
  • Arthritis may set in

How is a Bunion diagnosed?

Bunions are obvious even to the untrained eye – the bony bump can be seen at the base of your big toe or side of the foot. Yet, to fully evaluate your condition, Summit’s foot and ankle surgeons may take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess any changes that may have occurred. Periodic evaluation and x-rays are advised to reduce the chance of damage to the joint.

What are my treatment options?

You will be comforted to know that most bunions can be treated without surgery. Pain management is the main focus for early treatment, but won’t reverse the actual deformity.

Treatment options if you already have a bunion:

  • Wear roomy shoes with a wide toe box to avoid pressure points
  • Get your shoes professionally stretched
  • Protective pads to cushion the painful area
  • Avoid activity that causes bunion pain, such as standing for long periods of time
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen)
  • Icing several times a day
  • Injection therapy
  • Orthotic devices
  • Surgery if you have difficulty walking

What if I need surgery? What can I expect?

With bunion surgery, your big toe can be brought back to its correct position. Your Summit foot surgeon will realign your bone, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Our surgeons have several techniques to ease your pain. They use an ankle-block anesthesia and perform many bunion surgeries on a same-day basis with no hospital stay. Your recovery time usually takes three to six months. After surgery you may still experience persistent swelling and stiffness.

How long until I’m better?

Bunions never actually go away and tend to get steadily worse over time. Not all bunions are alike – some bunions progress more rapidly than others. Your Summit foot surgeon will evaluate your bunion and work with you to devise a treatment plan that is suited to your needs.

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