One of the most common reasons patients visit a foot and ankle doctor is for treatment of a bunion, which is a painful condition characterized by swelling of the joint on the big toe. Realignment of this joint causes a bony deformation at the base of the big toe. Fortunately, bunion pain can often be relieved with conservative treatment, but surgery is an option for more advanced cases.


Bunion Causes

The exact cause of bunions is unknown, but certain genetic factors may predispose patients to developing bunions. For example, people born with “flat feet” may be more likely to develop bunions as a result of their abnormal foot functioning. Other potential causes of the deformity include foot trauma, neuromuscular disorders, and limb-length discrepancies, a condition in which patients have one leg that’s longer than the other. Some people mistakenly believe that shoes can cause bunions; while this isn’t the case, uncomfortable or ill-fitting shoes can make bunion pain worse.


Bunion Treatment

Not every patient experiences bunion pain, but it can be debilitating for many. Except in severe cases, most doctors will take a conservative approach to bunion treatment by prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs and icing the joint. Some patients may be administered cortisone injections to relieve inflammation. Doctors may also suggest that patients rest frequently and wear wide shoes with supportive soles. Some patients may benefit from wearing custom orthotic braces that slow the progression of bunions while addressing underlying issues with foot functioning.


Surgery as a Treatment Option

If all of the above bunion treatments fail to address the pain, surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity. A bunionectomy procedure involves removing the bony growth and realigning the joint. For many people, the surgery successfully relieves pain and improves foot function. But as with any medical procedure, there are risks, and some people still experience pain after the surgery.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor to learn what bunion treatment option is best for you.