A bunion, known as hallux valgus, is when the first metatarsal bone angles outward while the big toe moves towards the second toe. This is a condition that will slowly worsen over time. Bunions can occur for multiple reasons, but most commonly, they are genetic. Other people have a foot type that leads to bunion deformities. Some people may only have a bunion on one foot.
Bunions are very common, and can cause a great deal of pain if left untreated. There are lots of ways to treat a bunion. Some conservative (non-surgical) options are available when the deformity is in the early stages. Custom orthotic devices can be very helpful to correctly position the foot, and minimize extra pressure being put on the big toe joint (where the bunion is). Wearing shoes with a wider toe-box, and not wearing high heels, can also make your feet feel better. Conservative treatment is designed to help you be more comfortable, and slow the progression of the deformity.
The only way to correct the bunion deformity is through surgery. Surgery involves cutting the first metatarsal bone and moving it to a corrected position, to help realign the first metatarsal-phalangeal joint. There are many (over 100!) different surgical techniques that can be used to fix a bunion. Depending on your foot mechanics, we can determine what procedure is best for you.
Bunions: When to treat
Bunions can cause a lot of discomfort for some people, and cause no pain to other people. Everyone has a different foot structure and foot biomechanics. How your bunion looks does not always correspond to when it needs to be treated. So when do you treat a bunion? Drs. Helms, Bowers and Higgins believe you should correct your bunion:
- If you are limiting your activity levels due to pain from the bunion.
- If you can no longer find comfortable shoes.
- If you have arthritic changes in the joint. These changes can be seen on x-ray Also, if you have arthritis you will have pain when you move your big toe up and down and even pain without wearing shoes.
How the joint looks on x-ray, and functions on physical exam, can tell us a great deal about your foot. At the big toe joint (where the bunion deformity is), the two bone ends forming this joint are covered with cartilage. When the joint is not aligned properly (as with a bunion), there can be destruction of this cartilage from the bone ends hitting or rubbing. If you have a bunion with arthritic changes and wait too long to be seen, there can be a significant amount of cartilage loss. This will limit options for relieving your pain and can lead to needing an implant or fusion.
Our goal at Indy Podiatry is to treat your bunions and other foot and ankle problems so you can maintain or achieve an active, healthy lifestyle.