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A bunion is a bony, painful swelling that is often formed on the first joint of the big toe. Bunions can be extremely painful due to the weight of all your body resting on it each time you take a step. Everyday activities, such as walking and wearing shoes, can cause you extreme discomfort if you have a bunion.

Reasons that a person may develop a bunion can vary. Some patients may form bunions due to genetic factors, complications with arthritis, or a weak foot structure. General aging can also play a role in the formation of a bunion.

If you have a bunion, you may notice a bony bump on your big toe, experience swelling and redness, and the area may feel tender to the touch. To help alleviate the pain that often comes with having a bunion, it’s suggested to maintain a healthy weight to help lessen the pressure on your toe, practice both heating and icing the affected area, wear wide-fitting shoes wear to leave plenty of space for your toes and to minimize rubbing, and look into shoe inserts that can help position your foot correctly.

Because bunions can result in other painful foot problems, such as hammertoes and bursitis, we recommend that you meet with a podiatrist for a professional diagnosis and for information regarding all your treatment options.

Bunion FAQ

What causes bunions?

This is a great question. There are several contributing factors to bunions. One is a family disposition to bunions. Most patients have someone in their family who has had a bunion. Ill-fitting and narrow pointing shoes contribute to the development of a bunion. Rarely are bunions caused by trauma. The biggest factor is the function of the foot over time. Bunions gradually progress and mostly due to the function of tendons and ligaments that stabilize the big toe joint.

What is a bunion?

It is a gradual dislocation or malalignment of the big toe joint (metatarsophalangeal joint). The big toe drifts to the outside of the foot gradually and the metatarsal bone becomes prominent on the inside of the foot. Bunions can range in severity from mild to severe. At the end stage of the deformity the big toe and second toe over or underlap one another.

What are my treatment options for bunions?

Treatment for bunions is divided into two camps.

Nonsurgical conservative treatment is the first camp. Treatment here consists of changing the types of shoes you wear. So that the toe box of the shoes is wider to accommodate the bunion deformity. Pads that go over the deformity can be purchased to decrease the pain associated with the deformity. Toe spacers can be worn to separate the first and second toes from one another. Additionally, medications can be used to treat the pain.

Most commonly anti-inflammatory medications are used for the treatment of pain, oral or topical medication can be used.

Surgical treatment is the other camp. When your bunion becomes painful or starts to impact daily activity and shoe wear it is time to consider surgery. The goal of surgery is to realign the joint, reduce pain, and improve function for the patient. For more information on bunion surgery please click on the link.

Do bunions go away?

Despite what some marketing companies may say bunions do not go away. The only way to correct the deformity is with surgery. Surgery requires a realignment of the joint. I often compare it to a warped wall. The only way to straighten the wall is to structurally rebuild the wall. Bunions can be treated with accommodation which is commonly done but correction of the deformity requires surgery.

What are my surgery options for bunions?

There are approximately 100 different procedures for correcting a bunion deformity. Depending on the severity of the deformity the surgeon should choose the most appropriate procedure for you. It is important that you select a board-certified surgeon foot and ankle surgeon who has the experience to perform the surgery to get the best outcomes possible.

What is recovery like from bunion surgery?

Recovery can vary depending on the type of procedure that is performed. Generally speaking, it will require you to stay off of your foot for a few days to a few weeks. You will need to ice your foot and ankle and elevate it during the initial postoperative period. You will be given medications to help control your pain after surgery. You may be required to use crutches or a walker to assist with keeping weight off of your foot after surgery. It will take several weeks before you can return to normal activities. For detailed questions about recovery make sure you have an informed discussion with your surgeon. Also, visit our page about what to expect from your foot and ankle surgery.

What is 3-D bunion correction?

3D bunion correction has been popularized by marketers in the medical industry. This term simply refers to correcting all the planes of the bunion deformity. Both the movement and prominence of the bone and the rotation of the bone. Correction in all planes of the deformity allows for the best correction. However not all bunion deformities require 3D correction because not all bunion deformities have a rotational component.

At Platte River Foot and Ankle Surgeons, we have been performing 3D bunion correction when appropriate for many years with techniques that Dr. David Waters has personally developed and utilized it with great success. It's best to have a consultation with an experienced surgeon about what bunion procedure would be the best for the deformity you have.

What is minimally invasive bunion surgery?

Minimally invasive foot surgery has been around for many years. Recently it has been popularized for the treatment of bunions. It involves making small incisions and utilizing bone burrs to cut the bone and then reposition the bone to correct the deformity. Plates and or screws are still used to hold the bone in the corrected position while the bone heals. These are inserted through additional small incisions made on the foot. MIS (minimally invasive surgery) is beneficial when it is selected for the right patient and right deformity.

At Platte River Foot and Ankle Surgeons, we perform MIS bunion surgery when it is appropriate the best procedure for the patient. We would love the opportunity to have you come in for a consultation and evaluate your bunion.

Who should I see for my bunions?

Bunions should be evaluated by a board-certified foot and ankle doctor or surgeon. They have the most expertise in this area and can provide you with the most comprehensive information about the deformity and treatment options. The American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery is the certifying body in the United States.

Do orthotics correct bunions?

Orthotics are a great treatment option for mild to moderate bunion deformity. The goal of orthotics is to slow the progression of the deformity by controlling the function of your foot and ankle. You may need a custom or over-the-counter medical-grade orthotic depending on the mechanics of your foot and ankle. If you would like more information please click on the link about orthotics.

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