Bunions – Not so happy feet

Many people have bunions – the unsightly and sometimes painful bump on one or both big toes. Most people can live with bunions pain-free, but for others, bunions are progressive and can lead to excruciating pain.

Sandra Klein, MD, Washington University orthopedic surgeon specializing in the foot and ankle, says “A bunion is more than a bump on the side of your foot. It is a bone deformity of the great toe that is frequently hereditary. If bunions do run in your family, you may be predisposed to developing one sooner or later.”

Bunions are most common in populations of people who wear shoes, but in cultures where going barefoot is the rule, bunions still occur. Bunions can worsen more rapidly and become painful if your shoes are not an adequate width for your foot. High-heeled shoes or boots also increase pressure on the forefoot.

As bunions become worse, they can press against the lesser toes, which also become deformed. Besides pain, symptoms include redness, inflammation and numbness.

Fortunately, many bunions do not become painful or change over time. With appropriate shoes, bunions can remain stable and should not limit your activities. Dr. Klein says, “If you are not having pain, there is no reason to surgically correct a bunion today because you are concerned it may become worse in the future.”

If you do start to experience bunion discomfort, you may want to consult with a foot and ankle specialist for non-surgical options — including orthotics for shoes, night splints, or shoe inserts that relieve pressure on the big toe.

According to Dr. Klein, “The primary indication for surgical treatment of a bunion is pain that limits your activities and the ability to wear shoes. The procedure, called an osteotomy, involves a cut in the bone to realign the great toe and correct soft tissue changes that may have occurred.

Although usually performed on an outpatient basis, bunion surgery requires technical skill on the part of the surgeon. You should select a specialist with specific training and experience in foot and ankle surgery.”

After you have recovered from surgery, please discard your too tight, pointy-toed, high-heeled footwear. There are plenty of fashionable, comfortable shoes available that look and feel great. Your feet will thank you.

Washington University Orthopedics offers medical management by orthopedic physiatrists, and surgical treatment by board-certified orthopedic surgeons for foot and ankle disorders.

Patients are treated at:

The Center for Advanced Medicine
4921 Parkview Place
St. Louis, MO

Washington University Orthopedics
14532 S. Outer Forty Drive
Chesterfield, MO