5 Questions to Ask Your Podiatrist About Bunion Deformities
Can a podiatrist fix bunions?
When it comes to bunions, as well as other foot and ankle issues, a podiatrist is the doctor that typically addresses them. Usually, bunions can only be permanently “fixed” with surgery, and in this case, a podiatrist or other specialist may be the one to perform such surgery.
Bunions are a very common issue. They are more common in older people, particularly in women, although men do experience bunions. At Advanced Foot and Ankle Specialists, we can consult with you about options to treat your bunions at any stage. We have podiatrists and other specialists on staff that can help.
What kind of problems can bunions cause?
While bunions are common, they can cause a variety of other issues with your feet, toes, and toenails and even impact your ankle, other joints, and overall health if left untreated. Technically, a bunion is a type of deformity with your toes, specifically with the joint at the base of your big toe. Put simply, when one of the primary bones in your foot begins to turn outward, and your big toe begins to point inward, toward your other toes, a bunion can begin to form. This is why a bunion appears as a roundish bone jutting out at the side next to your big toe. Since bunions are so common, many people wait until they’re causing noticeable or serious issues before seeking treatment, while some may not seek it at all. Regardless of how developed your bunion is, it’s a good idea to see a specialist before further problems develop.
Once a bunion develops, it can cause further issues, since most shoes don’t accommodate the protruding piece of bone, which then puts pressure on the joint that has been misaligned. This is what can make bunions painful, and that pain can spread to the rest of your foot, ankle, and even further up. The joint where a bunion most commonly occurs is part of a crucial piece of distributing your weight properly during exercise and other regular life activities. If there is too much pressure on this joint, it can cause strain on your other toes, and lead to things like “hammer toes”, which is when your toes curl downward rather than point straight, or corns (hard bumps of skin) on your other toes. It can also lead to calluses, ingrown toenails, or pain and discomfort on the ball of your foot.
What is the best non-surgical treatment for bunions?
Most bunions can be managed without surgery. While non-surgical treatments may not completely reverse the bunion, they can help keep it from getting any worse, and also ease the discomfort it may be causing. There are various attachments, sometimes known as bunion splints, you can wear on your foot or toes that can support and ease the tension the bunion is causing, and also help adjust your feet and toes to point straighter, temporarily correcting the deformity.
You may have to change the kinds of shoes you are wearing, or wear ones that will accommodate a bunion splint. If your bunion has caused issues like ingrown toenails, for example, those residual issues can also be treated and relieved to minimize the impact of the bunion. To ease general pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, as well as hot or cold packs, may also help. These steps are sometimes called conservative treatment, and it’s important to remember that it’s unlikely they will reverse the bunion completely.
Do you always need surgery for a bunion deformity?
Fortunately, no. Most cases of bunions do not end up requiring surgery, unless they have become severe enough to significantly impact your daily life activities, or are caused by an underlying deformity, which is usually hereditary. Our specialists at Advanced Foot and Ankle will consult with you about conservative treatment options, and if surgery is an option that’s right for you, we can discuss that.