BUNIONS: Causes & Treatment

As we cope with the array of “modern” conditions which afflict our health, it’s easy to forget some of the more mundane and yet life-affecting problems that our parents often spoke about but which are now largely forgotten.

A case of the Bunions is not exactly a life and death situation, but the condition is a very real one and a very painful one.

A Bunion is basically a bony bump at the base of the big toe joint. The condition is effectively a  progressive bone disorder that can be painful. Bunions grow due to changes to the structure of the bone within the foot itself, leading to the bones in the toes and feet not lining up correctly.

The familiar bunion bump is the result of the big toe pushing against the neighboring toe, which then causes the joint to stick out. Contrary to popular belief, Bunions do not only affect adults. Adolescents can also experience these bumps, which are referred to as adolescent bunions, which are usually an inherited condition.

Bunions are also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus. Bunions are more common in women than in men, whilst adolescent bunions develop most often in girls ages 10-15. People can often relieve bunion pain by wearing more comfortable shoes and relieving pressure on the toe.

Causes

The causes of bunions include uneven weight-bearing in the foot or tendon that makes the toe joint unstable. They can also be the result of an inherited foot type, feet that do not develop properly before birth, foot injuries picked up in childhood or adult life or forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis. There is also thought to be a link between the use of high-heeled or narrow shoes and the growth of bunions.

Diagnosis

A visit to your GP who will carry out a physical examination, usually followed up with X-rays will help diagnose bunions. The will help identify the severity of the bunion and the best treatment.

Treatment

Treatments for bunions that do not require surgery include correctly fitted shoes, shoe inserts, padding or taping of the toe, behaviour change (avoiding activities that aggravate the bunion), ice packs, anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections.

However, some bunions may need to be treated with surgery, usually in older people and where pain cannot be relieved with the use of properly fitted footwear or shoe inserts.

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