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What Causes Bunions?

Bunions are a common foot deformity that affects many people, especially women. They are characterised as a bony bump that usually forms at the base of the big toe and forces the toe to move out of its normal position. Bunions can be inherited and are often caused by an abnormal structure of the foot. This makes the foot more prone to the development of bunions, especially when combined with certain contributing factors.

Other leading causes of bunions include conditions that damage the nerves in the feet, such as cerebral palsy or peripheral neuropathy, and injuries to the foot. However, certain risk factors can also contribute to the development of bunions. These include wearing narrow shoes or high-heeled shoes with pointy tips, which can force the toes into an unnatural position and cause the formation of bunions. People with certain health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis may also be more prone to developing bunions. Therefore, it is important to wear comfortable footwear and choose shoes that fit correctly, especially if you have inherited an abnormal foot structure.


Risk Factors for Developing Bunions

There are several risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing bunions. These include family history, poor-fitting shoes, joint flexibility, flat feet, and inflammatory diseases.

Family history plays a major role in the development of bunions. If a parent or grandparent has bunions, it is more likely for an individual to develop them as well. Poor-fitting shoes can also lead to the formation of bunions. Shoes that are too tight or narrow can put excessive pressure on the toes, causing the bones to shift out of their normal position.

Joint flexibility is another factor that can increase the likelihood of bunions. Hypermobile joints are more susceptible to developing bunions, as the bones are more easily shifted out of their normal position. Flat feet are also associated with an increased risk of bunions. The lack of arch support can cause the bones in the foot to shift and lead to the formation of a bunion.

Certain inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the likelihood of bunions. These conditions cause inflammation and swelling in the joints, which can affect the foot mechanics and lead to the formation of bunions.

Common Symptoms of Bunions

Some of the most common symptoms associated with bunions include a visible bump, swelling or soreness around the big toe joint, corns or calluses between the first and second toe, limited movement of the big toe, and persistent or on-and-off pain in the affected area.

The visible bump is often one of the first noticeable symptoms of a bunion. This bump is caused by the new bone growth that has developed at the base of the big toe. Swelling and soreness around the joint can also occur, and these symptoms can be exacerbated by the use of narrow or tight-fitting shoes.

Corns or calluses between the first and second toe can also develop, causing discomfort and pain while walking. Limited movement of the big toe can further complicate normal daily activities like walking and running, and the persistent pain in the affected area can make simple tasks painful and challenging.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it's vital to seek the advice of a foot specialist to determine your treatment options. Non-surgical treatments such as custom-made shoe inserts, wider shoes, bunion pads, and ice packs can help relieve symptoms, while severe bunions may require surgical options.

Painful Bunion Symptoms

While mild cases may not cause any discomfort, or hinder mobility, severe cases may cause excruciating pain and restrict daily activities.

The most common symptoms of a painful bunion include persistent toe misalignment, redness and swelling around the affected area, and the development of calluses or corns on the affected foot. In most cases, individuals may experience localised pain, which worsens with pressure or wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes. These symptoms can become increasingly challenging to manage with time, which may result in impaired mobility and even the development of other painful foot conditions.

Ignoring these painful bunion symptoms may lead to severe consequences such as a complete bunion deformity, ultimately resulting in the need for a surgical procedure. At Orthotic Solutions Podiatry, our foot specialists offer a range of conservative treatment options to manage bunion symptoms, speak to our expert Podiatrists today.

Other Symptoms of a Bunion

Gait issues are also common in individuals with bunions, as the formation of the bony bump alters the foot's mechanics.

Foot deformity is another prominent symptom, as the bunion causes the big toe to lean towards the second toe, resulting in a misalignment of the foot bones. This deformity can lead to complications such as hammertoe, a condition that causes the toes to curl downwards unnaturally, and metatarsalgia, which is characterised by pain in the forefoot area.

How To Diagnose Bunions

To diagnose bunions, a foot specialist examines the foot and reviews medical history to identify risk factors and underlying health conditions such as flat feet or rheumatoid arthritis. X-rays can also be taken to determine the severity of the bunion and to identify any damage to the metatarsal bone. Additionally, a specialist may assess foot mechanics and footwear to determine if tight, narrow or high-heeled shoes may be contributing to the development of bunions. Non-surgical treatments such as icing, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and custom-made shoe inserts may be used to alleviate pain.

In severe cases, surgery may be required to correct the bunion deformity and improve foot function. Proper diagnosis and treatment can prevent the progression of bunions and allow individuals to continue with their daily activities without any hindrance.

Treatment Options for Bunions

Fortunately, conservative bunion treatment options are available to manage the symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse. 

Changes in Footwear

If you have bunions, making changes in footwear will be essential to alleviate pain and prevent further foot deformity. The first thing to consider is the width of the shoes. Shoes with wide insteps and broad toe boxes provide extra space to accommodate the bony bump and reduce pressure on the toes. Soft soles can also help absorb shock and relieve discomfort when walking. Stability is also important in shoes, especially for those with severe bunions or limited movement, as it helps maintain proper foot alignment and reduces the risk of falls.

Selecting shoes that fit properly should also be a priority to avoid aggravating bunions. Ensure that both feet are measured regularly as the size of feet may change over time. Standing during the fitting process is also important to ensure an ideal fit, and the ball of the foot should fit well into the widest part of the shoe.

It is best to avoid shoes that are too tight, too short or sharply pointed, as they can squeeze the toes and cause pain and discomfort. Shoes with heels higher than a couple of inches should also be avoided, as they can place undue pressure on the forefoot and aggravate bunions.

By choosing footwear wisely, you can better manage your bunions and enjoy your daily activities with less pain.

Orthotics and Other Devices

Orthotics and other devices can be effective in managing the symptoms of bunions. Custom-made shoe inserts are one of the most popular types of orthotics used to relieve the pressure on the bunion and facilitate comfortable walking. These inserts can help improve the alignment of the feet and redistribute the weight of the body evenly, thereby reducing the discomfort associated with bunions.

Toe spacers are also a type of orthotic device that can help reposition the toes and relieve the pain caused by bunions. They work by separating the big toe from the adjacent toes, which might have been displaced due to a bunion. Another non-surgical option is wearing splints at night, which can keep the foot in its normal position and slow the progress of bunion formation.

These orthotics and devices are useful in managing bunions, but in some cases, they may not permanently fix the bunion deformity. They do, however, provide relief and are an excellent alternative to bunion surgery, especially when the condition has not progressed too far. Ultimately, a foot specialist can help determine the right treatment plan, including orthotics or other nonsurgical options. If you are experiencing foot pain or discomfort, it's important to consult a podiatrist who specialises in foot conditions and injuries to determine the best course of action.

Prevention & Conclusion

It's not all doom and gloom however as bunions can be prevented with proper prevention methods and early interventions.

One of the most effective ways to prevent bunions is to choose proper-fitting footwear. Tight and narrow shoes increase the risks of bunions, especially for people with inherited structural foot problems as mentioned above. High-heeled and pointy-toed shoes are also major culprits of bunion formation. Therefore, it is important to opt for comfortable, wide, and soft-sole shoes that give your feet enough room to breathe and move. For individuals with flat feet or other structural foot problems, custom-fitted orthotics can help prevent or slow the progression of bunions, helping to correct foot mechanics, reduce pain, and prevent development.

In conclusion, bunions can be prevented with the proper methods mentioned in this article. Being aware of and managing the risk factors of bunions can help prevent the development of this painful foot deformity. If you or your loved ones are at risk, make sure you book a call today.