Bunions are a common issue that we see in our clinic. They begin as a minor irritation but can eventually become very painful and uncomfortable in tight or ill-fitting shoes. Bunions are the most common foot condition, with 25%-33% of adults — over 5 million people in the United States — experiencing them annually. Because of this, you will find effective treatments are well-established, all the more reason to seek treatment rather than delay.
A bunion (hallux valgus) forms on the outside joint of your big toe. The metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint will angle outward from the foot, pulling the big toe inward towards the 2nd toe. This forces the metatarsal bone to protrude on the inside of the foot because the bone moves out of alignment, causing inflammation, pain, redness, and a bony bump. It is often irritated further by wearing high heels or tight shoes. This foot deformity is common even in some children, but most often, they progress and cause pain and issues as we age, but patients at any age can experience discomfort. Eventually, the big toe will move toward the smaller toes, which causes a painful joint protrusion.
Bunions are caused by numerous things, including genetics, structural abnormalities, wearing improper shoes, and pregnancy.
The signs of a bunion are easy to identify and shouldn’t be ignored. They include the following:
Over-the-counter treatments, such as cushions or splints, can alleviate symptoms. Corticosteroid injections, icing the joint, wide-toed shoes, activity modification, and orthotics will slow or stop the progression. Without the use of orthotics, bunions can worsen over time. The only complete cure for bunions requires surgery. If left untreated, long-term complications can develop.
There are myths about bunion surgery that prevent many from pursuing this option until their situation becomes severe. Maybe they heard that surgery is painful and that bunions come back after surgery. Perhaps they fear having to use crutches and taking time off from work. But, unfortunately, bunions do not go away on their own. Contrary to the rumors, bunion surgery is done regularly for our patients and is done in an outpatient setting, and patients go home with pain medications and a surgical shoe or boot, typically walking with out a crutch, to return weekly for dressing changes. Some pain is to be expected, but the medications work well and are typically only used for 1-3 days for most patients.
A bunionectomy is the only permanent solution to a bunion. When you visit a board-certified podiatrist, such as Dr. Schoene or Dr. Bever, they will recommend surgery when they see the following issues:
There is a 20% chance of bunion recurrence after surgery. However, most bunion recurrences are minor and don’t impact daily activities. In some instances, they may require additional surgery, which is uncommon. This can be caused by incomplete correction during the first surgery; the patient didn’t follow post-operative instructions, or surgery creating an overcorrection.
Since bunions are a progressive condition, untreated bunions will continue to cause more issues as they develop further. This includes pain, impaired foot function, foot and ankle issues, and body pain. More specifically, it can lead to additional medical conditions that will require treatment, such as the following:
If conservative care is not relieving the discomfort of the bunions, then surgery is the next step in the process to rectify the alignment issue and relieve the pain. The inability to stand and walk impacts one’s quality of life. It isn’t something to tolerate or dismiss. In fact, it is very serious. Assuming that it will correct itself may lead to long-term injury and possibly permanent bodily damage.