Bunions, those bony lumps at the base of the big toe, can target anyone. Rich or poor, famous or ordinary, they have one thing in common, they are painful and make walking difficult.
Celebrities with bunions include actresses Michelle Yeoh, Katie Holmes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tilda Swinton and Teri Hatcher, model Naomi Campbell, TV presenter Oprah Winfrey, and ex Spice Girls singer and now fashion designer Victoria Beckham.
So what exactly are bunions and how can we get rid of them?
What is a bunion?
A bunion is a lumpy deformity made of bone that lies where the joint meets the base of the big toe.
Because the bunion is at the joint it will start to move the big toe over towards the other toes on the same foot. At the same time it will push the joint outwards.
This causes the joint to bulge and is the reason for so much pain.
What causes a bunion?
It is thought that bunions can be genetically inherited, so if your parents suffered it is most likely that you will too.
Other causes include wearing shoes that are tight fitting at the toes which may squash them, and wearing high heels is also thought to be a contributory factor.
Having flat feet may also be a reason to get bunions.
What are the symptoms of bunions?
The most typical symptom of a bunion is a big, bony bump on the base of the big toe that juts outwards. Sometimes, because this bony bump is constantly in contact with your shoes, it may appear red and shiny, or have hardened skin on it.
It may also appear to be tender to the touch and painful once you get your shoes on.
Do bunions affect other parts of the body?
You may think that having bunions affects only your feet but studies have shown that people with bunions experience pain in their hips, knees and lower back.
As the feet are such an important part of how we walk, they can have a knock on effect on our gait, our balance, and as such, can lead to a greater risk of falls with older people.
Not only this, but bunion sufferers tend to report less satisfaction with their lives because they have trouble finding comfortable shoes to wear.
So, what can you do if you have bunions?
What are the treatments for bunions?
For mild bunions the first course of action is to manage the pain, so your doctor may prescribe you with a light pain relief. There may also be medication to reduce the swelling and inflammation.
As for things you can do yourself, many people find relief from warm foot baths or heat pads, and others use ice to relieve pain.
If you manage to catch your bunion before it sticks out too much and gets too deformed, you may be able to correct it by wearing good-fitting shoes that are well made and recommended by your foot specialist.
There are also devices made especially for bunions that correct the bones of the big toe and realign them. These are called orthoses and include splint which hold the toes place, bunion pads or any number of other shoe inserts.
If these do not help to correct the deformity, an orthotist (a trained specialist n providing splints, braces and special footwear) may be able to suggest shoes with specially designed insoles and uppers. This is to relieve any pressure caused by the bunion on other parts of the foot and help the foot return to its proper shape.
When bunions are affecting a person’s walking or are extremely painful and are interfering with their everyday life, surgery may be the last option.
Performed under a general anaesthetic, a bunionectomy involves cutting the ligaments of the big toe joint in order to realign the bone.
For very severe bunions, it may be necessary to cut the actual bone in a method called an osteotomy. In this case wires or screws might have to be inserted to keep the bones in place.
There is always a risk when undergoing surgery, but potential complications after a bunion operation include overcorrection (where the bunion now points in the opposite direction), inadequate correction, reoccurrence, continued pain, and limited movement of the big toe.
How can I prevent bunions?
Bunions take a long time to develop, so by looking after your feet when you are young and throughout your life gives you a better chance of not getting them in later life.
- Be wary if bunions run in your family and if they do, have yearly check-ups
- Always wear properly fitting shoes, especially ones that don’t cramp or squeeze your toes
- Ladies should avoid wearing high heels or shoes with pointed toes