By: Dr. Robert J. Landy
November 03, 2011
Most bunions can be treated without surgery. But when nonsurgical treatments are not enough, surgery can relieve your pain, correct any related foot deformity, and help you resume your normal activities. A podiatric surgeon can help you decide if surgery is the best option for you.
What is a Bunion?
A bunion is one problem that can develop due to hallux valgus, a foot deformity. The term "hallux valgus" is Latin and means a turning outward (valgus) of the big toe (hallux). The bone which joins the big toe, the first metatarsal, becomes prominent on the inner border of the foot. This bump is the bunion and is made up of bone and soft tissue.
By far the most common cause of bunions is the prolonged wearing of poorly fitting shoes, usually shoes with a narrow, pointed toe box that squeezes the toes into an unnatural position. Bunions also may be caused by arthritis or polio. Heredity often plays a role in bunion formation. But these causes account for only a small percentage of bunions
Can Bunions Be Prevented?
Bunions often become painful if they are allowed to progress. But not all bunions progress. Many bunion problems can be managed without surgery. In general, bunions that are not painful do not need surgical correction. For this reason, podiatric surgeons do not recommend "preventive" surgery for bunions that do not hurt; with proper preventive care, they may never become a problem. Bunion pain can be successfully managed in the vast majority of cases by switching to shoes that fit properly and don't compress the toes.
Is Bunion Surgery For You?
If nonsurgical treatment fails, you may want to consider surgery.
Reasons that you may benefit from bunion surgery commonly include:
- Severe foot pain that limits your everyday activities, including walking and wearing reasonable shoes. You may find it hard to walk more than a few blocks (even in athletic shoes) without significant pain.
- Chronic big toe inflammation and swelling that doesn't improve with rest or medications.
- Toe deformity-a drifting in of your big toe toward the small toes.
- Toe stiffness-inability to bend and straighten your toe.
- Failure to obtain pain relief from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Their effectiveness in controlling toe pain varies greatly from person to person.
- Failure to substantially improve with other treatments such as a change in shoes and anti-inflammatory medication.
If you have any further questions about bunions or bunion surgery, please call our office for an evaluation by Dr. Landy