Bunions are a common toe deformity—especially for women—that are often misunderstood. Many people think they are caused by women’s shoes like pumps, stilettos, or other high-heeled footwear, but this is not the case. Also, bunions are progressive, which means they can become worse over time and cannot be reversed without surgery.
If you have one, it is important to see Dr. Miyazaki to have your bunion treated and learn about preventative measures to keep it from worsening.
Bunion Causes and Symptoms
Basically, bunions develop where the big toe connects to your foot. This joint is called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, and it is quite important for helping your foot to push off the ground when you walk. The bunion is a bony bump that develops on the inner edge of the foot. Excessive pressure on the MTP joint can lead to instability in the joint, which then allows the big to start angling inward toward the smaller toes. Over time, continued pressure forces the joint (and the tissue around it) to swell and stick out to the side.
There is actually a related condition known as a bunionette or “tailor’s bunion” that can develop on the other side of the foot. In this case, the MTP joint for the small toe is the one that becomes unstable. Much like with a traditional bunion, the MTP joint is forced out, while the little toe starts to point inward. Bunionettes can develop over time as the foot widens as you become older.
Many people think bunions are caused by women’s footwear. This does make sense, since high-heeled shoes do place excess pressure on the front of the foot, but it is not correct. Another reason people believe women’s shoes to cause bunions is the fact that women are most likely to develop this toe deformity. The problem with that logic is that men and children, neither of whom often wear women’s footwear, also can develop bunions.
Since they are not caused by footwear, bunions typically develop as the result of inherited foot structure, injuries, or deformities present at birth. They begin to develop when the distribution of weight and force across the foot is disrupted by an imbalance of pressure. In turn, this leads to instability of the MTP joint for the big toe. The structural components of the joint then form the hard knob that protrudes out along the inner edge.
The most easily identifiable symptom of a bunion is the unusual, bulging bump found next to the base of the big toe (or the small toe, in the case of a bunionette). It is quite common for the bump to be reddened, sore, and swollen. Due to the swelling and position of bunions, calluses and corns are frequently also seen. Pain that is either constant or intermittent (comes and goes) can be experienced with the condition. In many instances, restricted movement of the affected toe is a problem as well.
Conservative and Surgical Bunion Treatment
Due to its progressive nature, the only way to completely correct a bunion is through the use of surgical intervention. With that being said, there are nonsurgical treatment options that can address symptoms and either slow or prevent the condition from worsening. These include icing, medication, footwear changes, padding, and custom orthotic devices.
We will first attempt to relieve any pain or discomfort through those nonsurgical options, but we may recommend surgery, especially if the bunion causes you a lot of pain and impairs your ability to move your toe in a natural manner. Bunion surgery procedures can be used to realign bones in the toe and foot, remove swollen tissue, and fuse (connect) bones in the affected joint.
Together, we can discuss bunion surgery and determine if it is the right option for you.
If you have developed a bunion or bunionette, come to our Berkeley, CA office for the professional treatment you need. Contact us by calling (510) 647-3744. We will be happy to answer any questions and assist you in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Miyazaki.