In the next few minutes, you’ll learn a few things about bunions and hammertoes, including what can be done to relieve the symptoms.
But first, here are a couple of general facts. Did you know that bunions and hammertoes are extremely common? And it’s not unusual for someone to have both a bunion and hammertoe. That’s because they may have a certain foot structure that can lead to developing these deformities.
So let’s start by taking a look at bunions. What exactly is a bunion? Contrary to what most people think, a bunion is more than just a bump on the side of the big toe.
The bump of a bunion is actually a visible sign of what’s going on inside the foot. It reflects changes taking place in the bony framework in the front of the foot. The big toe leans toward the second toe instead of pointing straight out. This throws the bones out of alignment and forms the characteristic bump.
Bunions are a progressive disorder, which means the leaning usually gets worse—and alters the angle of the bones in that area. As a result, the bump becomes more prominent—and that’s when symptoms appear (although some people never have symptoms).
The symptoms of a bunion include pain or soreness at the bump, and redness and inflammation. Some people have a burning sensation or numbness at the bump. Symptoms most often occur when wearing shoes that crowd the toes. This may explain why more women are likely to have symptoms than men.
The foot and ankle surgeon will confirm that you have a bunion, rather than a different condition that can resemble a bunion, such as gout or arthritis. You’ll have your foot examined and x-rays taken. X-rays help the surgeon evaluate how far your bunion has progressed and will help determine the best approach to correcting this deformity. Sometimes bunions can be treated conservatively, through nonsurgical options. But for many people, surgery is appropriate if nonsurgical treatments fail to provide adequate relief.
Bunion surgery is also called a bunionectomy. A bunionectomy corrects the changes in the foot’s bony structure, removes the bump, and corrects any soft tissue changes that may have occurred. A bunionectomy is performed to accomplish three goals: reduce the pain, improve the patient’s ability to function normally, and decrease the deformity itself.
What exactly will your procedure involve? Surgeons have various procedures available to them to treat bunions. The right procedure for you will be decided by taking into account your x-ray results, your age, your activity level, and other factors. Your surgeon will explain this procedure to you.
The surgeon will also discuss in advance what you should expect in terms of recovery. In general, recovery from a bunionectomy will take several weeks and will require some time off of your foot.
Now let’s take a look at hammertoes.
A hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the second, third, fourth, or little toe. Many people think they have a hammertoe, but in reality it’s another condition. For this reason, it’s especially important to get an accurate diagnosis.
An important thing to know about hammertoes is that they may start off as mild deformities, but get progressively worse over time if left untreated. As they progress, they can rub against your shoe and cause problems. Hammertoes never get better without some type of treatment. That’s why they need to receive early attention.
The symptoms of hammertoe include, of course, the characteristic bend in the toe. The pressure of this bending against the shoe can cause pain or irritation. Corns and calluses might develop on the toe or between two toes, or even on the ball of the foot. Redness and inflammation can also occur. And in more severe cases, there may be open sores.
It’s best to deal with a hammertoe in the early stages, while the toe is still flexible and the symptoms can be managed through nonsurgical treatment.
However, if a hammertoe is left untreated, it can become more rigid and make the symptoms worse. At this later stage of the deformity, surgery is needed.
A foot and ankle surgeon can help you with this problem. The surgeon will examine your foot and take x-rays to diagnose and evaluate your condition. Based on this, a treatment plan is developed. As mentioned previously, early-stage hammertoe can often be treated nonsurgically. But if noninvasive options fail to provide adequate relief, surgery may be the appropriate option.
Hammertoe surgery does two important things: it reduces the bending of the toe and puts the toe in a straighter position. There are three reasons why hammertoe surgery is done: to reduce pain and pressure against the shoe, to improve the patient’s ability to function normally, and to decrease the deformity itself.
As with bunion surgery, different types of procedures are available to treat hammertoes. The optimal procedure for you will be decided by considering factors such as your x-ray results, age, and activity level.
Do you recall how we mentioned that many people have both a bunion and a hammertoe? For that reason, it’s common to have both of these conditions operated on at the same time. In addition, many patients have other foot problems corrected at this time.
Your surgeon will discuss in advance what you should expect in terms of recovery from hammertoe surgery. It will depend on whether other procedures will be performed to correct additional foot problems. Generally, recovery will take several weeks and will require some time off of your foot.
I hope this has given you some useful information about these two common foot problems. To make an appointment and find out more about correcting your bunion or hammertoe—or other foot problems—please call our office.