Bunions are very common in the United States, especially among women. Although most bunions do not require surgical treatment, some are more severe and can interfere with a patient's life. Many patients suffer for years before seeking treatment simply because they do not know enough about the condition or the treatment options available.
What is a Bunion?
A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe when your big toe is consistently pushed against your next toe. Although many blame continuous use of high heels and ill-fitting shoes, bunions are for the most part caused by genetics. An inherited structural defect makes the patient more susceptible to bunions: body weight puts pressure on the imbalances in the joint structure and eventually causes the joint to protrude outward. Certain shoes and activities can worsen and accelerate the development of bunions, which is why we often see more females with the condition. Arthritis can also play a big role.
When Should You See a Podiatrist?
If you have a large, visible bump on your big toe, it is a good idea to get it checked out by a podiatrist. In many cases, the best treatment is simply wider fitting shoes. Treatment options may also include anti-inflammatory medication, splints and orthotics in some cases. Most patients do not elect to have surgery until the bunion becomes painful, leads to decreased mobility and interferes with their daily lives. Many bunion patients also find that it can be very difficult to find comfortable, properly-fitting shoes due to the bunion.
What is a Bunionectomy?
Depending on your condition, a surgeon may remove the bony protrusion, make corrections to the bony structure of the foot, make corrections to soft tissue changes developed as a result of the deformity, perform a fusion on one of the joints, or even implant an artificial joint. You and your surgeon should discuss the options to develop a plan that work best for both your condition and your lifestyle. The length of "downtime" will vary depending on the severity of your condition. Bunion surgery is typically an out-patient procedure and recovery periods range from six weeks to six months.
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Learn more about common foot and ankle conditions and treatments.