Did you know that your feet contain about a quarter of the total number of bones in your body? With that many tiny bones and all the joints they form, it’s no surprise that three-quarters of Americans will have some problems with foot health in their lives.
It also means that it’s a good idea to have a positive relationship with a local podiatrist, just as you would with any other kind of doctor.
However, if you’re in the 6% of the American population suffering from more serious structural foot problems such as bunions (also flat feet and fallen arches), it’s absolutely vital that you consult with an orthopedic podiatrist. Bunions, like most foot problems, will generally only become severe if left untreated, so it’s in your best interest to find a podiatrist as quickly as possible. Here is some information about bunions, as well as what you can expect in your podiatric treatment:
Bunion Signs and Symptoms
If you feel pain when you try to wear shoes that used to fit comfortably, or if you see visible redness and swelling at the base of one of your big toes, you may be suffering from a bunion. You may even be able to see a visible bump on the outside of the toe. This condition occurs when the first toe begins to shift toward the second toe and a bony hump forms at the first joint of the big toe.
Causes of Bunions
Bunions are generally thought to be partially caused by pressure and crowding of the big toe, often because of wearing high-heeled shoes (which shift body weight forward onto the toes). However, your inherited foot structure and traumatic injuries may also play a role in their development. Certain conditions, such as arthritis, can contribute to bunions by changing the mechanics of your gait (how you walk).
Moderate Bunion Treatments
When you visit a podiatrist to have a bunion assessed, he or she will probably start by having you wear better shoes, particularly if the bunion is just forming. You can often get relief from a mild bunion with daily foot exercises and stretching, and you can ease the pain caused by the bunion in the meantime by padding it with gel or cotton inserts, taking anti-inflammatory drugs and soaking your feet in hot water. Your podiatrist may also want you to wear a splint at night to bring your toe back into alignment.
Bunion Foot Surgery
All surgeries have risks and complications, so it’s always best to avoid foot and ankle surgery as a first-attempt treatment. But if a bunion is severe and cannot be alleviated using the above methods, bunion foot surgery may become necessary. In this surgery, an incision is made on the top or side of the toe, and bone and soft tissue are both removed. Metal wires, screws or plates are sometimes used to correct bone alignment. There are actually many different kinds of bunion surgery, and not all podiatrists agree as to which is most effective; it’s best to talk to your doctor and discuss options based on your individual symptoms.