A bunion consists of bone and soft tissue and occurs when the bones in your big toe move out of alignment. If you have a hard bump on the side of your big toe it's probably a bunion and should be examined by a podiatrist as bunions can cause the cartilage around the toe to wear away, which can lead to arthritis in your toe. Here's what you need to know about bunions.
You may be more susceptible to developing a bunion if there's a family history of bunions. There isn't always an identifiable cause, but the following can cause the misalignment of your big toe and subsequent bunion formation:
- Trauma to the foot
- Nerve damage affecting the foot
- Wearing poorly fitting shoes that pinch your toes and high-heeled shoes, which can put too much pressure on the front of your feet
- Pre-existing arthritis
Your podiatrist will examine your foot and ask you about any accompanying symptoms such as pain when walking. They may also arrange for you to have an X-ray, which will allow them to assess the extent of damage to your big toe.
Once they've confirmed you have a bunion, they will discuss the treatment options with you.
Small bunions that don't cause a great deal of discomfort can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers. If the skin around your bunion is broken, which can happen when tight shoes rub against it, your podiatrist may suggest you use an antiseptic cream and keep it covered with a dressing pad to minimise the risk of infection. If you do develop an infection you will be prescribed antibiotics.
Orthotic insoles can reduce the pressure on your big toes by redistributing your weight across your feet when you walk. Your podiatrist will measure your feet and order a custom-made pair of insoles for you, and they will follow-up with you to ensure the insoles are helping.
Surgery may be an option if insoles and medication haven't been effective. Tissue and bone will be removed from your big toe and the surgeon may realign your toe to reduce the pressure on your toe joints. The procedure can be carried out as a day case, but your toe will need a few weeks to fully recover from the operation.
You can ease pain caused by your bunion by wearing well-fitting shoes. Shoes that are too loose or tight can cause friction when you walk, which can aggravate your bunion, so opt for wide-toed shoes with thick padding. If you have swelling around your big toe, schedule an appointment with podiatrists like McLean & Partners for a thorough foot examination before your condition worsens.