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What Are Bunions?

Overview
Bunions Hard Skin
A bunion is one problem that can develop due to hallux valgus, a foot deformity. The term ?hallux valgus? is Latin and means a turning outward (valgus) of the big toe (hallux). The bone which joins the big toe, the first metatarsal, becomes prominent on the inner border of the foot. This bump is the bunion and is made up of bone and soft tissue.


Causes
Bunions most commonly affect women. Some studies report that bunions occur nearly 10 times more frequently in women. It has been suggested that tight-fitting shoes, especially high-heel and narrow-toed shoes, might increase the risk for bunion formation. Bunions are reported to be more prevalent in people who wear shoes than in barefoot people. While the precise causes are not known, there also seems to be inherited (genetic) factors that predispose to the development of bunions, especially when they occur in younger individuals. Other risk factors for the development of bunions include abnormal formation of the bones of the foot at birth (congenital), nerve conditions that affect the foot, rheumatoid arthritis, and injury to the foot. Bunions are common in ballet dancers.


Symptoms
The initial symptom may be pain at the joint prominence when wearing certain shoes. The joint capsule may be tender at any stage. Later symptoms may include a painful, warm, red, cystic, movable, fluctuant swelling located medially (adventitial bursitis) and swellings and mild inflammation affecting the entire joint (osteoarthritic synovitis), which is more circumferential. With hallux limitus or rigidus, there is restriction of passive joint motion, tenderness at the dorsolateral aspect of the joint, and increased dorsiflexion of the distal phalanx.


Diagnosis
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.


Non Surgical Treatment
Technically, you can only ?fix a bunion? with surgery, but many patients don’t need it to get symptom relief. In its early stages, the progression of the bunion deformity can often be dramatically slowed. Removing pressure from the bunion area and balancing the tendon and ligament alignment are the primary goals of mild bunion treatment. For example, it is important to wear shoes that have sufficient room in the toe area to accommodate the bunion - that means softer leather shoes to mold to the deformity and platform type heels for better foot and arch support. Your doctor may also advise the use of pads to protect the bunion from shoe pressure. Customized shoe inserts, called orthotics are made exclusively for your foot and are often used to correct the alignment of the arch and big toe joint. In some cases, physicians also use anti-inflammatory creams around the bunion.
Bunion Pain


Surgical Treatment
Your podiatrist can refer you to a podiatric surgeon who will evaluate the extent of the deformity. A podiatric surgeon can remove the bunion and realign the toe joint in an operation generally referred to as a bunionectomy. However, there are actually around 130 different operations that fall under this title, so don?t presume you?ll need the same type of surgery as that friend of a friend who couldn?t walk for 3 months.


Prevention
A lot of bunion deformities are hereditary so there isn’t much you can do to fully prevent them. Early detection and treatment will go a long way in preventing the growth of the bunion and foot pain. Often times, a good custom orthotic can be very effective in slowing the progression of a bunion, but a podiatrist provides that. Waiting with bunions will worsen the condition and could lead to further complications such as hammertoes or contracted toes. Besides causing deformity, these secondary conditions can eventually cause issues with walking and affect your knees, hip, lower back. There are no lotions over the counter that would be able to actually treat the problem. There are some bunion shields that you can place on the bump to ease symptoms and pressure from shoes. However because this condition is an actual bone deformity, the over the counter option solutions are more like a Band-aid approach.

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