Often described as a bump on the side of the big toe, a bunion is a painful sign of changes in the bony structure of the foot. When the big toe presses in toward the other toes, the base of the big toe pushes outward on the first metatarsal bone, forming the unnatural hump at the base of the big toe. This hump can fill with fluid and become inflamed, causing even more pain.
If you want to prevent bunions, you must first understand what causes them. Our Richardson, Garland and Dallas podiatry practice can explain it for you. While bunions can be hereditary, shoes are often to blame for the development of bunions, a condition that is 10 times more common in women than they are in men.
The problem with shoes
Shoes with a narrow toe can trigger the formation of a bunion, causing the big toe to push against other toes, sometimes even diverting under or over the other toes. As a result, the base of the big toe juts out from the foot.
High heels can make the situation even more painful as they force the body weight forward, pushing the toes into the front of the shoe.
How genetics affect bunions
Foot types run in families, and some types of feet are more prone to bunions than others. Flat feet with low arches and loose joints and tendons are more at risk of bunions than other feet. The shape of the top of the first metatarsal bone can also make a difference; if the head of the bone is too round, the joint is less stable and more likely to become deformed when squeezed into narrow shoes.
Other factors that cause bunions
People in occupations that require a lot of standing and walking are more susceptible to bunions, as are dancers, pregnant women and individuals with arthritis.
How to prevent bunions
Bunions can be very painful, but they can also be prevented in most cases. Here are a few tips to prevent bunions.
Choose the right shoes. Wear shoes with a wide, flexible sole to support the foot, and a spacious toe box to prevent the big toe from being compressed into the other toes. Sandals, athletic shoes, and shoes made from soft leather are all good choices to prevent the formation of a bunion, or to accommodate for an existing bunion.
Avoid high heels. Ladies – skip the stilettos and keep heels low. Wearing heels higher than an inch put too much pressure on the front of your foot, exacerbating the problem of bunions.
Maintain a healthy weight. The more body weight you carry around, the more pressure there is on your toes when you walk. Work to maintain a normal, healthy weight to avoid added pressure on your feet.
Use shoe inserts. Over-the-counter or prescription orthotic devices can be used to help position the foot correctly to take pressure off the first metatarsal joint.
To reduce or prevent the pain caused by existing bunions, wear a splint at night to hold the toe straight, take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, buy well-fitting footwear and use warm soaks or ice packs on the joint.
If a bunion causes you continuous pain, or if it is causing other problems, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. During surgery, a surgeon puts bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves back into place, removing the bump on the outside of the big toe.
If you have a bunion, it’s important to have your foot checked out by a podiatrist to monitor the bunion and prevent other painful foot conditions. Contact your Richardson, Garland and Dallas podiatry office at Metroplex Foot & Ankle today, and we will discuss the next steps for treatment.