Bunions: Common Causes

Bunions: Common Causes

Bunions affect more than 64 million Americans each year, and they can cause major pain. If you’re dealing with foot pain or having trouble walking, it’s wise to schedule a visit with a podiatrist to evaluate your foot problems. Bunions don’t get better on their own. Left untreated, bunions tend to cause worsening pain and can lead to complications.

At Concord Podiatry in Concord and Plymouth, New Hampshire, David E. Biss, DPM, specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the feet and ankles, including bunions. If you feel a bony lump at the base of your big toe, you may have a bunion. Stopping in to have your foot checked out is the only way to know for sure. 

What is a bunion?

A bunion is a deformity of the joint that connects the big toe to the first metatarsal bone, called the metatarsophalangeal joint, which is at the base of the big toe. This causes the toe joint to push out of alignment as the big toe is pulled toward the smaller toes and a bony projection forms.

Signs and symptoms of a bunion include:

Untreated bunions can lead to other foot problems, including hammertoe, which is a deformity of the middle joint of the second, third, or fourth toes.

Common causes of bunions

Certain factors increase your risk of developing bunions. The following are some of the most common risk factors.

Narrow shoes

Wearing shoes that are too narrow squeezes your big toe against your other toes. The continuous pressure applied against the big toe can cause a bunion to develop. Women’s fashion shoes commonly have a narrow, or pointy, toe area that squeezes the toes into an unnatural position. Wearing narrow shoes for several hours a day on a regular basis increases your chances of developing bunions.

High heels can make the problem worse because they shift your spine out of its natural alignment, causing your body weight to shift forward and making it more difficult for your feet to support that weight.

Flat feet

When the arch on the inside of your foot falls, your feet flatten. Some people are born with flat feet. In other cases, flat feet can develop during childhood or even adulthood. Wearing shoes with poor arch support also contributes to the development of flat feet.

Without proper arches, your feet overpronate. This means your foot rolls inward when you stand and walk, which puts pressure against the big toe and throws the toe joint out of alignment.

Family history

Your genes play a role in bunion development, as genetics has some influence on the shape and structure of your foot. You’re more likely to develop bunions if a close relative has bunions.

Medical conditions

Conditions that affect your joints — such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout — can cause bunions to develop.

Foot injuries

Foot injuries that damage the toe joint or push the big toe out of alignment increase your risk of developing bunions.  

Treatment for bunions

Treatment depends on the size of your bunion. The following are two common bunion treatments.

Custom orthotics

Specially made shoe inserts called orthotics can help alleviate bunion pain. These are specifically designed for your feet and to address specific foot problems. Custom orthotics help maintain the correct foot position when your foot strikes the ground, which increases comfort when you walk and move and lowers the risk of future complications.

Minimally invasive bunion surgery

Surgery can treat mild-to-moderate bunion deformities. Dr. Biss performs the procedure by making a very small incision and using special tools to reposition the bones.

Get quality care for your feet

Bunions are a foot issue you shouldn’t ignore. The goal of treatment is to correct the position of the toe joint and ease pain. If you have a bunion, or foot pain of any type, a thorough evaluation is the best place to start. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Biss, call the office convenient to you to speak with one of our knowledgeable team members.

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