It is estimated that about one out of three people over the age of 65 have a bunion to some degree. Anyone can develop a bunion, no matter their age, including children — even those under 10 years old. At whatever age you develop bunions, they can either cause no problems or they can be extremely problematic.
The Diabetic Foot and Wound Center in Bakersfield, California, treats all kinds of foot problems, including bunions, with both noninvasive and surgical interventions. Learning more about bunions and why they occur is the first step toward preventing their development. Our medical team shares some valuable insight into the causes for bunions and how best to prevent them from occurring.
What are bunions?
Bunions are visible, bony bumps that emerge from the base joints of your big toe as a result of a progressive bone disorder. The metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint is usually the culprit of this structural problem. Bunions occur when the phalangeal bone of the big toe moves up and in toward your second toe, crowding it aside. Another bone, called the metacarpal bone, then slides out from beneath, producing the visible bump.
Research seems to indicate that genetics contribute in large part to whether or not you will develop bunions. The inherited trait includes a particular bone structure that makes it more likely you will develop bunions, often on both feet. Research also shows that women are more likely to have bunions than men. An assumption that this is because of tight-fitting or high-heeled shoes is a popular but false reason for bunions. As any podiatrist will affirm, these types of shoes can exacerbate foot conditions.
Some additional causes that you may develop bunions include:
- Overpronation: Having a low arch or uneven weight-bearing
- Hypermobility: Having a big toe bone that moves more than usual
- Foot injuries, repetitive stress, and overuse injuries
- Inflammatory forms of arthritis
- Conditions affecting both the nerves and muscles
- Improper fetal foot development
What are the symptoms of bunions?
Some people who develop bunions have no complications or pain with them at all. Others can begin experiencing soreness and redness as the bump becomes more pronounced. Pain can vary from mild-to-severe and can come and go away intermittently. Bunions typically grow worse if they are ignored or untreated.
Some other symptoms you may experience can include:
- A burning sensation
- Corns and calluses
- Increased skin thickness at the base of the toe
- Hardened skin under the foot
- Restricted movement of the affected toe
Bunions can also contribute to some other possible complications if left untreated, such as bursitis, metatarsalgia, and hammertoes. All these conditions are painful and further restrict your freedom of movement.
How are bunions treated?
Treatment for bunions always begins with more conservative, noninvasive therapies that include resting the offending foot, icing to reduce inflammation, OTC medications for pain, and taping or splinting the toe. Our podiatric specialists may also recommend specific types of shoes that have more room for your toes to move freely. We can also prescribe foot orthotics and perform steroid injections around the offending toe joint.
As your bunions progress in severity, more invasive treatments may become necessary. Our board-certified podiatric surgeons offer outpatient bunion surgery at our medical clinic to correct more severe bunions. Most patients are walking around in as little as a few days post-surgery.
How can I prevent bunions?
Genetics or not, anyone can take measures to prevent bunions from developing. Here are some ideas:
- Pad the bunion with moleskine, or use orthotics.
- Wear shoes with a wide toe box that allows plenty of room for toe movement.
- Make sure your shoes fit correctly.
- Avoid high heels and tight-fitting shoes.
- Rest your feet without shoes whenever possible.
If you suffer from painful bunions and need treatment, contact the podiatric experts at Diabetic Foot and Wound Center in Bakersfield at 661-238-7526. We also offer telehealth appointments and online scheduling for your convenience.