What is a Bunion?
A bunion deformity, or bunions if you have one on each foot, are among the commonest problems our podiatrists treat. Simply put, a bunion is a “bump” or protrusion of bone on the inside of the big toe. In medical-speak a bunion is called hallux abductovalgus or simply hallux valgus.
Bunions are unsightly and often painful and bunion deformities usually worsen with time (so the sooner a bunion is treated often the better).
Commonly, as a bunion forms the big toe moves abnormally toward the second toe. The larger the bunion or the bump on the inside of the foot becomes the more the big toe tilts toward the second toe. In advanced cases, the great toe can move so far toward the second toe that the second toe actually will rest on top of the great toe.
Our doctors have seen people with such severe bunion deformities that the patients needed to cut open their shoes to make “room” for the bunion.
Worse than forcing people to wear larger and wider shoes, bunions prevent the big toe joint from working normally. Over time, a bunion causes malfunction of the big toe joint and can cause numerous painful problems, the most serious is destruction of the joint’s cartilage. Cartilage is the flexible, elastic material that allows the joint to move smoothly (it is the shiny white material that you may see on the ends of chicken bones).
Other serious problems bunions can cause include pain, inflammation, arthritis, loss of motion, abnormal motion and even the inability to walk normally.
Treatment Options for Bunions
Our podiatrists use a variety of treatments to alleviate bunion pain and deformities on patients within Northwest Indiana and around the country. These treatments can range from prescribing medication to correcting the foot’s abnormal motion (often with orthotics) to performing a short outpatient procedure to remove the bunion.
Conservative Treatment of Bunions
Since bunions are bone deformities, conservative measures will not remove the bunions but they can give you relief from pain.
Our podiatrists often prescribe custom made orthotics. Foot orthotics are arch supports specifically fabricated for your feet that limit abnormal motion and lessen pain. In addition, to providing relief from pain, orthotics slow or even stop bunions from worsening.
Other treatments include topical prescription medications that can reduce inflammation and pain, and in severe cases oral anti-inflammatories. In some cases, the doctors may inject the bunion with cortisone or other medicines.
On your own, you can do several things for relief from a painful bunion. These measures include wearing wider shoes, padding the bunion, massage and if you do not have diabetes, circulation or nerve issues and your doctor says these are safe for you, then you can try using ice or soaking in warm water and Epsom salts.
For many patients, removing the painful bunion with surgery is the best solution. Bunion surgery has become highly advanced in recent years.
Our doctors use a variety of technology and techniques for bunion surgery. Every bunion, like every patient, is different and the exact method used depends on the severity of the bunion, the patient’s health, the overall biomechanics of the patient’s foot and other factors.
One of the things our podiatrists usually do when performing bunion surgery that not every foot surgeon does (but probably should!) is to address a muscle in the foot that contributes to a bunion developing in the first place. This muscle acts to pull the big toe toward the second toe. By surgically addressing this muscle while removing the bunion, there is much less chance of the bunion ever coming back.
Innovative Bunion Surgery Techniques
Our doctors may use one of the following innovative techniques or a combination of these bunion surgery correction methods to remove your bunion. The doctor will discuss bunion surgery techniques that he expects to use to correct your bunion; however, it will be during the actual surgery, when he sees the extent of deterioration inside your big toe joint that he will make a final decision on the best technique to use.
Common bunion correction techniques used, include:
- Swiss Technique
- Minimal Incision Technique
- Implant Replacement Procedure
- Joint or Midfoot Fusion Surgery
- Tightrope Bunion Correction
Nearly all of our bunion surgery patients have the procedure done on an out-patient basis. Typically, you will arrive at a nearby surgical center or hospital about 90 minutes before the surgery. The procedure usually takes about 25 to 30 minutes and you go home about an hour later.
Most of our patients can walk immediately after bunion surgery but you must limit your walking at first to just a few minutes every hour and you need to wear a special “surgery” shoe.
It should be noted that bunion surgery is not without risks and surgery is not suitable for everyone. The most common risk is developing an infection. To lessen the chance of infection, our doctors will give you antibiotics on the day of your surgery and they will prescribe a course of oral antibiotics to take afterwards.
Revision Bunion Surgery and Second Opinions
Persons who have undergone bunion surgery by another foot surgeon and developed complications or are simply unhappy with their result will see our doctors. In some cases, the patient’s foot surgeon will refer these patients to our doctors or these patients may come to us on their own.
Revision bunion surgery is often challenging, however, our doctors relish puzzling out what caused the bunion surgery problem in the first place and enjoy figuring out a good solution.
Final Thoughts on Bunions
Bunions are one of the most common foot problems our doctors treat. The doctors use a variety of treatments and medications to lessen bunion pain, and many advanced techniques to remove them. If you have any questions about bunions please make an appointment to see one of our physicians or send us an email.