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Do Bunions Always Need Surgery?

Overview
Bunions
In constrictive shoes, the big toe is forced to bend toward the second toe and the first joint of the big toe is moved out of place. To compensate for the realignment, the outside of the joint is increased in size. Tendons then begin to pull the toe into an abnormal position. Over time the change in position becomes painful and permanent. The change in position also causes the mechanics of the toes and foot to be affected. The joint at the base of the big toe carries a lot of weight when walking or running. In a normally shaped foot the position of the big toe helps create a wide base of support and stability. A foot that has had the big toe bent toward the second toe will tend to roll inward. This abnormal pronation, along with the ill-fitting shoes will make the Bunion even worse. If a person has a foot anatomy that is prone to Bunions, wearing footwear with a too-narrow toe box will accelerate the development of a Bunion. Wearing footwear with a wide toe box may help prevent or at least delay the development of Bunions.


Causes
The underlying cause is a deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. The deformity is called hallux valgus. In this deformity the joint develops a prominent sideways angle. Due to this deformity the bones of the big toe are pushed towards the smaller toes. The skin over the angled joint then tends to rub on the inside of shoes. This may cause thickening and inflammation of the overlying skin and tissues next to the affected joint. In most cases it is not clear why a hallux valgus deformity develops. There may be some hereditary (genetic) tendency to have a weakness of this joint. In some cases it is associated with a joint problem such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. However, whatever the underlying cause, wearing tight or badly fitting shoes tends to make the problem worse. Wearing such shoes puts extra pressure on the big toe joint and causes friction on the overlying skin.


Symptoms
If a foot bunion is developing, you may experience some of these symptoms. Bulge or bump on the outside of the base of your big toe. Swelling. Redness. Soreness. Thickening of the skin in that location. Corns or calluses. Limited movement of your big toe. Persistent or periodic pain. The pain you experience may be mild or severe. It may become increasingly difficult to walk in your normal shoes. The pressure on your other toes can cause your toenails to grow inward or your smaller toes to become bent.


Diagnosis
A doctor can very often diagnose a bunion by looking at it. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen.


Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment for bunions ranges from non-surgical to surgical. Conservative, non-surgical treatments are aimed to help alleviate some of the discomfort and pain from the bunion, they will not fix the problem. Some of the recommendations would be shoe modification to make room for the bunion, wearing wide toed shoes, or adding padding and cushioning to your shoes.
Bunions Callous


Surgical Treatment
As you explore bunion surgery, be aware that so-called “simple” or “minimal” surgical procedures are often inadequate “quick fixes” that can do more harm than good. And beware of unrealistic claims that surgery can give you a “perfect” foot. The goal of surgery is to relieve as much pain, and correct as much deformity as is realistically possible. It is not meant to be cosmetic. There are several techniques available, often as daycare (no in-patient stay), using ankle block local anaesthetic alone or combined with sedation or full general anaesthesia. Most of the recovery occurs over 6-8 weeks, but full recovery is often longer and can include persistent swelling and stiffness. The surgeon may take one or more of the following steps in order to bring the big toe back to the correct position: (a) shift the soft tissue (ligaments and tendons) around the joint and reset the metatarsal bone (osteotomy), remove the bony bump and other excess bone or (b) remove the joint and connect (fuse) the bones on the two side of the joint (fusion). These are just a few examples of the many different procedures available and your treating surgeon can help you decide the best option for you.

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