Bunions are a common foot deformity characterized by the formation of a bony bump at the base of the big toe. While often viewed as a cosmetic concern, bunions can cause significant pain and discomfort, leading to chronic foot problems that can become debilitating if left untreated. Despite the prevalence of this condition, many individuals put off seeking medical attention, believing that bunions are simply an aesthetic issue that can be ignored. However, bunions can progress over time, causing significant complications that can affect mobility and quality of life.
At Jefferson Orthopedic Clinic, our highly-skilled team of orthopedic surgeons provide expert treatment for lower extremity conditions, giving their clients the opportunity to return to peak condition.
Here is why you shouldn't ignore a bunion.
What Is A Bunion?
A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe, which can cause pain and discomfort, making it difficult to walk or wear certain shoes. It is a common foot deformity that affects many women, particularly those who wear tight or narrow shoes or high heels. Bunions develop when the joint at the base of the big toe becomes misaligned, forcing the big toe to point toward the other toes. This misalignment causes the bone to stick out, forming a bump on the side of the foot. The pressure and friction from ill-fitting shoes can cause the skin and tissues around the bunion to become swollen and painful.
Over time, this can lead to inflammation and the development of other secondary problems such as corns, calluses, and even arthritis. While bunions can occur at any age, they are most common among women and can be particularly problematic for those with a family history of the condition.
While they may not always be painful, bunions can affect mobility and quality of life, particularly as they progress in severity. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you have a bunion or are experiencing any pain or discomfort in the foot or big toe.
What Causes Bunions?
Bunions can be caused by several factors, including genetics, foot injuries, and wearing poorly fitting shoes. The most common cause of a bunion is an inherited foot type, where the foot bone structure is more likely to develop bunions. This can cause the foot's bone to become unstable or misaligned, resulting in the development of a bunion.
Additionally, wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow can force the toes to press unnaturally against each other, leading to the formation of a bunion over time. High heels can also contribute to the development of bunions as they shift the body's weight forward, forcing the toes to bear more pressure. Foot injuries or deformities, such as flat feet, can also make a person more susceptible to developing bunions.
Over time, an uneven distribution of weight on the feet and toes can lead to imbalances and destabilization of the joints, causing a bunion to form. Furthermore, some health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can also increase the risk of developing bunions. Therefore, it is essential to take preventative measures, such as wearing comfortable and properly fitting shoes and being mindful of genetic predispositions, to reduce the likelihood of developing bunions.
Walking May Become Painful
Ignoring a bunion can cause significant pain and discomfort, particularly when walking. As the bunion progresses, it can cause swelling, inflammation, and pressure on nerves, leading to chronic pain and discomfort in the affected area. The bony protrusion at the base of the big toe can rub against the inside of shoes, causing friction and blisters. The result of this is the difficulty of walking or performing routine activities.
Due to the fact that the feet are the main point of contact with the ground, any pain or discomfort in the feet can affect balance and cause problems with walking. As a result, individuals with bunions often experience a change in gait or the way they walk, which can cause additional stress on other parts of the body, such as the hips or lower back. Improper footwear, such as high heels, can cause additional complications, including foot and ankle pain that worsens with regular walking or standing.
You Could Develop Bursitis
Ignoring a bunion can increase the risk of developing bursitis, a painful condition that affects the small fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that cushion the joints. Individuals with bunions may put extra pressure on the bursa located at the base of the big toe, causing it to become inflamed and swollen. This can lead to the development of bursitis, which can be quite painful and limit mobility. Bursitis, when left untreated, can cause long-term damage to the joint, leading to chronic pain and limitations in movement.
To prevent the development of bursitis or worsening of the condition, individuals with bunions should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Treatment for bunions, such as wearing comfortable shoes, using custom shoe inserts, or surgical intervention, can help to alleviate the pressure on the bursa, reduce inflammation and prevent foot problems and other complications from arising.
Arthritis Can Develop
Bunions can compromise the integrity and structure of the big toe joint, leading to the development of osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that results from the wear and tear of the joint over time. The damaged joint can cause pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. Arthritis can also develop because of the chronic inflammation caused by untreated bunions, which can lead to the breakdown of cartilage and bone in the joint. This can cause bunion pain and the joint to become swollen, unstable, and painful, making it difficult to walk or perform routine activities.
In severe cases, arthritis caused by bunions can require surgery to replace or fuse the affected joint, making it critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Therefore, individuals with bunions should take preventative measures to avoid the development of arthritis by seeking medical attention and practicing habits such as wearing comfortable shoes, practicing good foot hygiene, and engaging in regular low-impact exercise to keep the joint healthy.
You May Suffer From Foot Deformities
If left untreated, a bunion can lead to several foot deformities, which can be painful and impact one's mobility. An untreated bunion can cause the big toe to drift toward the other toes, leading to a condition called hammertoes. Hammertoes occur when the toes bend abnormally at the middle joint, causing pain and pressure on the tops of the toes. In severe cases, untreated bunions can even cause the second or third toes to overlap or underlap, leading to additional deformities which may require bunion surgery.
These complications can cause severe pain and discomfort, making it difficult to walk or wear shoes. The resulting change in the foot's shape can also make it challenging to find properly fitting shoes, leading to further discomfort and pain.
Therefore, it is crucial to seek medical attention if you have a bunion, especially if it's causing pain or discomfort, to avoid the development of foot deformities and prioritize your overall foot health.
If you are struggling with a bunion or are suffering from another form of foot pain, contact our board-certified team of orthopedic surgeons at Jefferson Orthopedic Clinic for comprehensive care and same-day appointments. Call today or schedule an appointment directly from our website!