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Bunion Prevention

Because bunions develop slowly, taking care of your feet during childhood and early adulthood can pay off later in life. Keep track of the shape of your feet as they develop over time, especially if foot problems run in your family.

Exercising your feet can strengthen them. Wear shoes that fit properly and that do not cramp or pinch your toes. Women should avoid shoes with high heels or pointed toes.

Bunion Surgery

Let’s start with a basic truth: shoes rarely cause bunions. Shoes can irritate, aggravate, even accelerate bunions, but they are usually not the cause of the problem. The deformity is caused by a combination of inherited traits and the compensations we have to make to walk comfortably.

A bunion is a deformity of the joint behind the big toe, where the big toe bends at the ball of the foot. The bunion, in its early stages, may appear as a slight swelling on the side of the joint and may not be painful. As it progresses, the size of the bump becomes larger and the big toe begins to drift toward the second toe. This is the point at which shoes (especially dress shoes) become uncomfortable and frequently irritate the side of the joint; there is usually a redness that appears over the bump. As we get older, the deformity progresses; the forefoot gets wider and hurts in any normal shoe. Frequently, the second toe gets “popped-up” and forms a hammer toe. The top of the toe is frequently irritated by the shoe and a corn is formed.

Why do some people get bunions while others don’t? We all inherit genetic characteristics. If your parents or grandparents had bunions, you may inherit the tendency to get them and possibly pass the trait on to the next generation. But even if no one in your family has had bunions, you can still get them. Bunions can develop from mal-formations during pregnancy; trauma to joint, ligaments or bones, and by repeated small injuries to the feet over the years. In most cases, the compensations our body makes to protect us from the pain produced by these insults lead to the eventual formation of bunion deformities. Bunions can occur at any age.

What can you do to prevent bunions? Prevention is only possible if the bunion is diagnosed early and conservative treatment (with a functional orthotic device) is started before a major deformity occurs. Since bunion deformities are progressive (they get worse as time goes on) early control of the deforming forces is crucial. Once there is a significant distortion of the joints, surgical treatment is required.

What can you do if you already have bunions? There are several treatment alternatives:
  • Wear wider shoes and restrict activities that cause pain ( not a recommended course of action since, if left untreated, the bunion will continue to develop.)
  • Control early bunions (with minimal deformity) with functional orthotic devices that improve stability, reduce abnormal compensations and eliminate joint pain.
  • In advanced bunions ( with marked joint deformity), surgery is usually indicated.
What can you expect if you need bunion surgery? A lot depends on the severity of your bunions and the underlying causes of the bunion formation. Each person has a unique set of mechanics that must be understood before the correct bunion surgery can be chosen. A comprehensive biomechanical examination will provide that information and should be completed before discussing surgery.

Most bunion surgeries are performed under local anesthesia, at a hospital or out-patient surgical center. An anesthesiologist sedates the patient so that he sleeps lightly during the surgery. Before the surgery, questions about your procedure and recovery period will be presented to you in detail. All questions you may have will be answered to your satisfaction by your doctor.

The earlier that bunions are detected and treated, the better the results. Be kind to yourself. One pair of feet must last a lifetime. If you have painful bunions please make an appointment to discuss your treatment options with the doctor.

Surgical correction of the bunion is performed in a surgical center or hospital using a fluoroscan (a mobile x-ray) to allow for minimum dissection. Minimally invasive bunion surgery is an option that allows patients to walk without crutches or a cane the next few days following surgery. If you have painful bunions please make an appointment to discuss your treatment options with the doctor.

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