Did you notice a small bump on the side of your foot a few months ago? But now it looks a little (or a lot) bigger? Are you wondering if the change is all in your head? Unfortunately, it's not!
You see, a mild bunion becomes a moderate bunion. Then, if you don't take action, it will keep on growing, progressively becoming more severe.
Why is that the case? Well, bunions on your feet form due to unstable foot mechanics. That instability causes your bone to rotate outwards and form a bump. Usually, bunions form beneath your big toe joint. But sometimes, they form beneath your baby toe. When that happens, we call it a bunionette or tailor's bunion. But, aside from the name and location, we treat this growth the same way as we would a bunion.
As a result, if you don't correct the instability? That rotation won't stop. And the force can keep on causing the bunion to enlarge. In other words, left to their own progression? A small bunion will appear bigger over time, as the angle of the bone increases.
Early Intervention for Bunions
What might happen if you came in and saw me when that bunion was small? At that time, I'd have so many treatment options to suggest. They'd all keep your bunion from growing. And they wouldn't include surgery.
How could that be? When your bunion is small, it's unlikely to cause foot pain. As such, we don't need to remove the bump. We just need to keep it from becoming more prominent and causing problems.
To that end, we can first address the forces that caused the initial bump to form. That will usually involve shoe changes and custom orthotics. Next, we can pad your bunion so that shoes don't rub against it, causing pain and inflammation.
Of course, the only way to truly get rid of a bunion on your foot is with foot surgery. But if you come into the office early, removal may not be your best option. Still, if you just want that bony bump gone, you should still seek treatment as soon as you notice a bunion. Because that could change the course of your surgery, and your recovery afterward.
Bunion Surgery: What's Involved?
When I'm preparing you for bunion surgery, I can't always tell you exactly what will happen during your procedure. Why is that the case? Well, the nature of your procedure and recovery is dictated by the severity of the bunion.
What does that mean in practical terms? It's pretty clear: the recovery for mild bunion surgery is easier than for that of a moderate bunion. And if you need surgery for a severe bunion? You may spend several weeks after surgery in a cast, using crutches to keep all weight off your foot.
Can You Prevent Bunions from Forming?
If you're sitting here reading this post and freaking out, you may wonder if you could have prevented that bunion from ever forming. Now, I don't want you to feel stupid. Because you may have heard that high heels cause bunions to form. But that's simply not true.
For most people, genetics and faulty biomechanics lead to bunion growth. That means if your mom and grandma had bunions, you will probably get one too. Still, a genetic history doesn't have to seal your fate. In fact, we can take steps to keep bunions from forming.
First, if you know your bunion risk is higher because of your family history? Now's the time to get selective about your shoe choice. Because, while high heels don't directly cause bunions to form, they can speed up negative forces in your feet. As such, they can make you develop a bunion sooner than you might have otherwise.
Also, if you've noticed bunions on other family members, it's worth coming in for a comprehensive foot exam. And do it before you develop a bunion. Why? During that exam, I can look at your foot structure and gait. If I notice biomechanical concerns, I can fit you for a custom orthotic at that appointment. That way, we can correct some of the forces that cause bunions to form. And, most often, we can keep bumps from popping up on the side of your foot.
When Should You Get a Bunion Checked by a Podiatrist?
By now, you've seen a few different ways to answer this question. In a perfect world, you'd see your podiatrist before you develop a bunion. That way, you'll never need to worry about bony bumps, and can walk happily through the rest of your life.
But I'm a realist: I don't live in a land of perfect foot choices. So I know most of you won't come in for a checkup unless you've got a problem. And that's fine. Because, as long as you don't wait to see me until your bunion is huge? Or making it difficult to fit into any of your shoes? Then I should be able to help you. And without too many invasive procedures.
So here's the bottom line. To ensure the easiest recovery, and the least invasive treatments? You should get your bunion checked as soon as it's visible. Especially if it is causing you pain.
If you are noticing a bump on the side of your great toe joint but don't yet feel pain? That's even better! I still want you to come into the office in the near future. Because, as I reviewed earlier, with a custom orthotic, we can often neutralize the forces that cause the bunion to progress. In that way, many patients can avoid bunion surgery altogether.
Whether you feel constant pain in your bunion, or you're just starting to notice it, you should get the bunion on your foot checked right away. When you come in, Houston podiatrist and bunion surgeon Dr. Andrew Schneider will evaluate the progression of your bunion. At that point, I can recommend the most appropriate treatment for you. And if you come in early enough in the process, that recommendation likely won't include surgery!