Even though bunions are a common foot condition, they are probably the one with the most misconceptions. Many people suffer unnecessarily with the pain of bunions for years before seeking treatment out of fear about the ?surgery?. The good news is that most bunion pain can be resolved without surgery.
The most common cause of bunions is poor footwear. Poorly fitted shoes, high heeled shoes or shoes with a narrow toe area can all cause bunions or make bunions worse. Bunions can be hereditary and they can be associated with poor foot biomechanics such as overpronation or flat feet. Rheumatoid arthritis or some diseases of the nervous system can also cause bunions.
Audible clicking (called ?crepitus?) and/or stiffness in the affected joint which indicates that the joint surfaces are rubbing together improperly. Inflammation, degeneration of the surfaces of the joint, deformity (including bone growth at the joint line and displacement of the toe) and ultimately, loss of range of motion in the joint. Pain at the side and top of the joint that worsens with walking and physical activity.
Most patients are diagnosed to have bunions from clinical history and examination. However, in some cases, X-rays will be performed to determine the extent of damage to the joint. Furthermore, it will enable the treating doctor to decide on the best course of management of the patient.
Non Surgical Treatment
Podiatrists will treat bunions conservatively, using paddings and orthotics, which are devices that are made to protect the joint or deviate pressure away from it. Sometimes bunions will develop overlying callus or corns. These can be removed by a podiatrist, but if the area is irritated again by wearing ill-fitting footwear, the corn will grow back. Most people with this condition have flat feet, so arch supports are often recommended.
Complications of bunion surgery are not common, but include infection of soft tissue and/or bone, slow healing of skin or bone, irritation from fixation pins or screws, nerve entrapment, reaction to the foreign material (suture material, pins or screws), excessive swelling, excessive scarring, excessive stiffness (some stiffness is unavoidable), over-correction (hallux varus) and recurrence of the deformity. Rarely, some complications may require a second surgery to correct the problem. While these complications are rare, they should be weighed against the difficulty that you are experiencing to determine whether surgery is an acceptable risk for your condition. This is an important part of the process.
Bunions often become painful if they are allowed to progress. But not all bunions progress. Many bunion problems can be managed without surgery. In general, bunions that are not painful do not need surgical correction. For this reason, orthopaedic surgeons do not recommend ?preventive? surgery for bunions that do not hurt, with proper preventive care, they may never become a problem.
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