A bunion is the term given to a knot that appears on the side of the foot, just to the side of the lowest joint of the largest toe. The knot is made up of bone and soft tissue and appears when the largest toe has been pushed inward toward the other toes for an extended period of time. Heredity plays a role in bunion formation, as do illnesses such as arthritis and polio. However, the leading cause of bunions is wearing ill-fitting shoes where the toes are cramped together. Since women are more likely to wear poorly fitting shoes because of heels and such, bunions are more prominent in women. In fact, the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society found that over 85 percent of women in the U.S. wear shoes that are too small and over 50 percent have bunions.
Bunions usually do not become painful unless they are allowed to progress. If they do begin to cause pain, most of the time simply changing the style of the shoe to give the toes more room works wonders in rectifying the problem. However, in the most severe and painful forms, bunions can sometimes require surgical intervention.
Bunion surgery is broken into two main categories: head procedures and base procedures. In head procedures, surgery is done on the joint of the largest toe whereas base procedures are done on the joint behind the largest toe. There are about a hundred different sub procedures that can be formed on various sections of the toe, due to the number of components in each. Not every procedure will work to correct everyone’s problem as no two patients are the same. Aftercare for bunion surgery usually involves the use of crutches for two weeks, keeping the foot dry and elevated during those times and staying off of the affected foot as much as possible in the days following the surgery. Stitches will be removed one week after the procedure, at which time the surgical dressing will also be changed.
There are some caveats that patients should be aware of when it comes to bunion surgery. It should only be performed by a qualified orthopedic surgeon. Patients should be leery of any procedure that promises to provide a quick fix or instant relief to their bunion problem. Due to the intricacy of the structure of the small bones in the toe, bunion surgery is a delicate procedure that should not be taken lightly as not to cause more harm than good. Bunion surgery is meant to correct the deformity and the pain in the toe, not as a cosmetic procedure. So if a surgeon is promising you a “perfect foot” after you have this procedure done, it should serve as a red flag that you may want to look for another surgeon.
If you’re interested in learning more about bunion treatment at La Peer, you can visit our Bunion Surgery Center of Excellence website.