What Are Bunions?
Odds are that you have probably suffered from bunions or heard someone complain about them at some point in your life. Bunions are a common deformity that affects the hallux, more commonly known as the big toe in your foot. The medical term for bunions is hallux valgus. When you have a bunion, this toe bends inwards, while the metatarsophalangeal joint angles outwards, creating the appearance of a bony protrusion on the side of your foot.
The resulting abnormality is caused by the inflammation of the bursal sac of the affected joint. Bunions are usually caused by wearing narrow, pointed shoes that push your big toe inwards, thus making the joint “stick” out. Women tend to wear tight, narrow shoes more often, which makes the incidence of bunions higher in females. There are other conditions that can cause bunions, such as arthritis or congenital malformations.
The most common symptoms of bunions include:
- Hard, bulging lumps on the side of your big toes.
- Your big toe points towards the rest of your toes.
- Red, swollen, tender skin over the bony lumps.
- Persistent or intermittent pain along the side or bottom of your feet.
- Restricted movement of the big toe, especially if you are suffering from arthritis.
Do They Get Worse?
Bunions tend to start out small, and develop over an extended period of time. Since the metatarsophalangeal joint has to flex every time you take a step, it becomes more swollen and painful over time. In severe cases, the big toe might even force the second toe out of alignment. Calluses can form where the toes rub together, causing even more discomfort.
There are several things you can do to prevent bunions from getting worse or from developing at all. Some of these steps include:
- Wear supportive shoes that have a wider toe box. This will prevent your big toe from getting pushed out of its normal position, thus preventing bunions. Even if you have already started to develop bunions, this simple measure could slow or stop their progression.
- Since bunions develop over time, take care of your feet during your teenage years and early adulthood to decrease the likelihood of developing this condition.
- Strengthen your toes. It might sound silly, but learning how to pick up small objects with your toes can strengthen them. Some stretching exercises can also be helpful in preventing bunions.
- Wear orthotics. If you are starting to develop a bunion, wearing orthotics inside your shoes can help relieve symptoms and slow their progression. Ask your podiatrist to recommend the best orthotics for your case.