What Are Bunions And How Can Your Podiatrist Help?

Posted on: 30 September 2015


If you are experiencing pain and swelling at the base of your big toe, you could have a "bunion".  So, what are bunions, and how can your podiatrist help to resolve the problem?  Read on to find out more. 

What are "bunions"?

Bunions are large painful reddened lumps that form on the outside of the base of your big toe.  Often, your toe joint will be enlarged and affected by degenerative arthritis.  This deformity can push your big toe towards your second toe.  This can make finding comfortable shoes tricky and makes walking extremely painful.

Bunions are often inherited, so if one of your parents suffered from them, you might do too.  Women who wear high-heeled shoes for long periods of time every day can be predisposed to suffering from bunions, especially if they favour styles with very narrow pointed toes.  People with flat feet often suffer from bunions.

How can your podiatrist help?

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should visit your podiatrist for confirmation that you are suffering from bunions.

In the case of minor bunions where the deformity to your big toe is not severe, your podiatrist will recommend nonsurgical treatments to alleviate the pressure on your toes and thus relieve the pain.  Sometimes a simple course of action such as changing your style of footwear to something that provides a wider roomier fit and lower heel can solve the problem.  Your podiatrist may provide you with a special corrective shoe insert that works by pushing the big toe back into its correct position, together with toe padding to prevent the big toe from encroaching on the second toe.  

Often, this strategy when used in conjunction with over-the-counter painkillers is sufficient to manage many bunions and to prevent further deformity from occurring.  Once the inflammation subsides, a bunion will often settle down and become painless, although you'll always have a bony enlargement on the outside of your big toe joint and will have to wear wider shoes to accommodate it.

In the case of more severe deformity and pain, your podiatrist might recommend surgical intervention in hospital.  During a "bunionectomy" procedure, the surgeon will remove the swollen tissue, straighten the toe and reshape any deformed bones in the affected joint.  This should prevent the bunion from re-growing and, provided you continue to wear the corrective footwear your podiatrist has prescribed, you should experience no further problems.

In conclusion

If you have pain and swelling on the outside of your big toe joint, you could have the early symptoms of a bunion.  Consult your podiatrist immediately for a definitive diagnosis and recommendations on a course of remedial treatment to address the problem before surgery becomes necessary.