What are the symptoms of bunions? Bunions are a widespread foot deformity that primarily affects women compared to men. Its prevalence increases with age. According to epidemiological studies, the incidence of this condition varies between 2% and 33% in the general population, with even higher rates among the elderly.
In this blog, we’ve discussed bunions many times because many patients are searching for a definitive solution to eliminate this condition. Finding a solution allows for pain relief and, most importantly, the ability to resume normal walking.
In this article, we’ll focus on the symptoms of bunions, exploring how to recognize and treat them as effectively as possible.
How to tell if you have a bunion? Key symptoms
A bunion is a structural deformity of the foot joint, specifically the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe, but not exclusively. This condition manifests as a lateral deviation of the big toe towards the outside of the foot, accompanied by an opposite inclination of the metatarsal bone.
To fully understand this condition, it’s crucial to know the anatomy of the foot and the involved joints. The human foot is a complex structure consisting of numerous bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Bunions are characterized by a deviation of the metatarsal bone inwards and a deviation of the big toe outwards. Despite the commonality of the pathology, the causes of its occurrence are not yet entirely clear.
Why do bunion symptoms occur?
Genetically, a familial predisposition for bunion development has been identified. Studies have shown a correlation between the presence of first-degree relatives affected by this condition and a higher risk of developing it.
From a biomechanical perspective, alterations in foot structure and function can contribute to bunion onset. For instance, excessive foot pronation (flat foot) can negatively influence the load distribution and stability of the first metatarsophalangeal joint, thus favoring big toe deviation.
Certain environmental factors can increase the risk of developing bunions. Wearing inappropriate footwear, such as tight shoes or high heels, can exert excessive pressure on the forefoot, contributing to the deformity. Additionally, obesity can increase the load on the foot joints, worsening symptoms and promoting bunion development.
All these conditions can lead to foot malformation and symptoms that allow the patient to understand they are suffering from bunions.
Major symptoms of bunions
One of the main symptoms of bunions is the lateral deviation of the big toe, visible even from a distance. A sort of bump on the inner side of the foot is noticeable. This bump may be small in the initial stages and enlarge as the condition worsens.
In some cases, bunions can cause the formation of calluses or skin thickening on the bony prominence of the big toe (known as bursitis).
These thickened areas are the body’s response to constant pressure and friction on the bony prominence due to the big toe’s deviation.
When a patient visits the clinic for an examination, the orthopedic doctor always asks them to move the big toe to check its stiffness.
Indeed, limited mobility of the toe can be a symptomatic sign of another condition, namely rigid big toe.
Rigid big toe is characterized by arthritis of the metatarsophalangeal joint, and the disease is marked by pain and progressive loss of the ability to move freely and participate in normal foot movements, accompanied by pain.
Patients with bunions may also experience pain in the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe. The pain can range from mild to severe and may occur during daily activities such as walking, running, or wearing improper shoes.
The pain can be localized in the joint itself or radiate to surrounding areas.
Finally, another common symptom of bunions is inflammation, which manifests as swelling, redness, and a feeling of warmth in the area of the big toe and the metatarsal joint.
What problems can bunions cause?
And what are the complications that can arise if left untreated?
From a medical perspective, as we have seen, bunions can cause painful inflammation of the synovial bursa. This structure is located on the outside of the foot, known as bursitis.
Inflammation can cause swelling, pain, and redness in the affected area, limiting mobility and causing discomfort during physical activity and walking.
Moreover, the deviation of the big toe can lead to irritation and abrasion of the other toes. This results in the formation of corns or calluses.
Of course, limited mobility leads to a progressive increase in weight and a decrease in muscle mass in the body. It is also necessary to consider the reduction of activities that can be performed independently.
Long-term, bunions can alter foot biomechanics, causing a shift in body weight distribution during walking.
This change can lead to increased pressure on the metatarsals (the bones of the front part of the foot) and other foot joints. This increases the risk of developing other conditions, such as metatarsalgia.
Walking with improperly supported feet also means straining the rest of the body, such as knees, back, shoulders, and even the neck. These body parts may, in turn, experience discomfort and stiffness over time.
Physical and Psychological Consequences
Pain creates discomfort and lessens the desire to experience everyday life with joy and dynamism. If the patient cannot participate in daily, sports, or recreational activities that require normal foot functionality, psychological repercussions are inevitable. Moreover, bunions create an unaesthetic “bump” on the side of the foot that could cause discomfort to those suffering from it.
In short, the consequences from both a physical and psychological standpoint are evident. That’s why it’s essential to intervene as soon as possible to reduce the impact the condition has on one’s life.
What to do to avoid worsening the situation?
Many patients neglect the conditions of their feet and do not seek a specialist, hoping that bunion symptoms will disappear.
Bunions are an anatomical and structural condition of the foot, so they cannot strictly heal on their own.
However, the progression and worsening of this condition can be halted and stabilized, simultaneously reducing pain.
To avoid worsening bunions and the need for surgical intervention, it’s essential to know how to correct them by adopting healthy habits.
These may include wearing appropriate footwear, using orthopedic insoles or shoe inserts, muscle-strengthening exercises, controlling body weight, and applying cold or hot packs.
However, if bunions cause persistent symptoms, significant pain, or functional limitation, medical intervention, such as surgery, may be necessary to correct the underlying deformity.
The only person who can determine whether a patient needs surgery for bunion care is an experienced orthopedic specialist. Only this professional can provide a detailed diagnosis, which involves measuring the intermetatarsal angle. This allows identifying the best treatment based on the patient’s conditions.
Surgery to Cure Bunion: A New Minimally Invasive Technique
The percutaneous surgery technique represents one of the new methodologies developed to correct bunions. This technique aims to reduce the risk of recurrence, as well as swelling and pain.
The intervention is performed with percutaneous surgical techniques. This means that surgical accesses are made through small puncture incisions in the skin, rather than with a wide surgical opening. Consequently, bleeding is minimized, as is postoperative pain.
Through these incisions, specialized instruments are inserted to correct the deviation of the big toe. One or more osteotomies (surgical fractures) are performed. Subsequently, the bone is repositioned so that the big toe returns to its correct position. The entire process is guided by an intraoperative radiological device.
Like all minimally invasive techniques, this one has numerous advantages.
Among these, reduced surgical trauma, smaller incision sizes and associated risks, a faster recovery period, and a lower likelihood of postoperative complications such as infections and noticeable scars.
Can anyone undergo surgery?
In general, the decision to undergo surgery for bunions is based on a thorough medical evaluation. Although it is often a definitive solution that requires a rehabilitation period, not all patients can undergo it.
For example, the patient’s age and overall health can influence the decision to undergo surgery.
Patients with significant health problems may require a more careful assessment of the risks and benefits of surgery.
Usually, it is preferable to first attempt to alleviate bunion symptoms through conservative, non-invasive therapies with fewer contraindications.
If the patient experiences significant symptoms such as persistent pain, inflammation, difficulty walking or wearing normal shoes, and if the bunion deformity is worsening over time despite the use of conservative treatments, surgical intervention may be indicated to prevent further damage and pain.
I hope this article has provided you with a comprehensive overview of bunion symptoms and possible treatment options.
If you are dealing with persistent pain, inflammation, or difficulty walking due to this deformity, it is essential to act promptly to improve your quality of life.
As an orthopedic specialist, I want to offer my experience and expertise to address this condition appropriately.
I am Dr. Strigelli, an orthopedic doctor in Florence, and I am ready to help you overcome bunion symptoms.
Booking a visit to my clinic is simple, and you can obtain further information about available treatments.
Don’t let bunions impact your daily life. Trust my experience and expertise to find relief and restore the well-being of your feet.
Don’t hesitate to take the first step toward a pain-free life. Be proactive and schedule a visit with Dr. Strigelli, your trusted orthopedic doctor in Florence.
Typical symptoms of bunions include pain and swelling in the bunion area, redness, joint stiffness, a burning or tingling sensation, corns or calluses on the surrounding skin, difficulty walking or wearing tight shoes.
Yes, bunions can cause persistent pain, especially during physical activity or prolonged walking. The pain can range from mild to severe and can impact the patient’s quality of life.
If bunion symptoms interfere with daily activities, cause intense pain, limit mobility, or show signs of infection, it is advisable to seek the opinion of a specialist. The doctor will assess the need for medical intervention.
Yes, bunions can affect balance due to the deviation of the big toe and potential changes in foot biomechanics. This can make it more challenging to maintain a stable posture while walking, increasing the risk of stumbling or falling.
Untreated bunions can lead to long-term complications, such as chronic inflammation of the foot joints, joint instability, degeneration of the big toe joint, and the development of other foot conditions, such as arthritis. Therefore, seeking medical evaluation and undergoing appropriate treatment is important to avoid potential complications.