What are Bunions?
A bunion is a bone in the foot that becomes misaligned and protrudes to give the foot an irregular shape. This occurs at the joint in the big toe. Bunions can be uncomfortable and cause pain, and this, in turn, can affect movement and walking. The big toe can become swollen where pain and stiffness develop in the area around the bone and, in turn, the skin over the big toe can develop inflammation and soreness, inevitably making it vulnerable to blisters. This can all lead to more pain and discomfort for the sufferer.
Bunions can affect anyone, but women seem to suffer more than men (perhaps as they are more likely to wear uncomfortable shoes). Bunions can be caused by a number of reasons, including rheumatoid arthritis, family history, or, as just mentioned, badly fitting shoes, for example, high heels or shoes that are narrow around the toe area.
How would a bunion be treated?
There are many treatments that can help with the pain and discomfort of a bunion but, in most cases, they will not stop or remove the bunion (see below for advice on self-help treatments). A doctor or podiatrist can examine your foot to confirm a bunion, and you may need an X-ray to see what is happening inside the foot. Blood tests may also be used to rule out other conditions.
The only real way to remove a bunion is through surgery, but this will normally only be carried out in severe cases. Surgery can alter the shape of the foot and help with any uncomfortable side effects of a bunion. This, however, is not a guarantee and over time, the same problem can reoccur.
What can you do to help yourself if you have a bunion?
Should you have a bunion, there are a few things that can be done to make yourself more comfortable. Always wear well fitted and comfortable shoes, preferably flat wide footwear that gives your feet space.
Bunion pads or orthotics can be used to help. These can be purchased over the counter from your pharmacy, although it is recommended that you see a podiatrist for specially-fitted orthotics as these are more likely to specifically target the problem. Splints and toe spacers are also used by many people to relieve symptoms but again, these are a short-term solution.
Painkillers and ice packs can help with any immediate pain. Always read the information leaflet when taking over-the-counter medication, and if applying ice to the area, wrap it in a tea towel first rather than putting ice straight on your skin.
All these methods should help with your bunion, but should you need more complex help, see a recommended podiatrist who will be able to advise on orthotics or possible surgery.
For more information about Bunions
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1.NHS Choices, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bunion/Pages/Introduction.aspx [accessed 27 January 2012].
2.Bupa, http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information/directory/b/bunions [accessed 27 January 2012].