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By Alandra Greenlee, DPM

Bunions are a common foot ailment that cause bony bumps at the base of the big toe. There can be many causes including genetics and poorly fitting shoes. These result in misalignment of the big toe joint. Over time, bunions lead to discomfort, redness and swelling, often making walking painful. Over time, bunions tend to worsen, impacting mobility and causing secondary complications like hammertoes. It is important to have a bunion professionally evaluated, but when?

If you have a family history of bunions
Some bunions run in the family, these bunions tend to develop early on, sometimes during pre-teen years, and progress quickly. Any person with a family history of bunions should have their feet evaluated by a specialist to determine if there are any preventative measures that can be taken to prevent bunions from developing or to slow down their progression and prevent the need for surgery in the future.

If your bunion developed quickly
A bunion that develops quickly or becomes painful all of a sudden should be evaluated as soon as possible. It is important to rule out an underlying cartilage, bone, tendon or joint issue that may be causing the pain. Sometimes other conditions such as gout, which can be treated with medication, can masquerade as a bunion unless professionally evaluated.

If your bunion became red and painful all of a sudden
A bunion that becomes red and more painful all of a sudden may be a sign of an underlying condition such as an infection, bursitis or gout. These conditions are important to be treated as soon as possible to prevent spreading and long term damage to the big toe joint. Oftentimes, a professional can provide medication or treatment that may provide relief within 1-2 days.

If you’re an athlete
Most athletes depend on their feet for performance. Maintaining healthy and structurally sound feet can allow an athlete to perform at a higher level for longer. A foot and ankle professional can evaluate your bunions and determine how to slow their progression, or to discuss the best surgical option for you to stay active as long as possible.

If you’re considering surgery
There are many ways to surgically correct a bunion, including minimally invasive techniques and newer methods such as the Lapiplasty ©. The only way to determine the best surgical treatment for your bunion is to have it evaluated in the office by a foot and ankle surgeon. This visit will include X-rays and a biomechanical evaluation. Discussing your surgical expectations and lifestyle will also be important for the surgeon to determine the best surgical options for you. Even if you are not going to proceed with surgery immediately, knowing what your options are and what the downtime will be can allow you to consider treatment in the future.

In conclusion, it is important to have bunions evaluated by a foot and ankle professional even if they are not painful for you. If you are ready to have your bunions evaluated, call to schedule an appointment!