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Coping With Bunions

Overview
Bunions Callous
Bunions form when the normal balance of forces that is exerted on the joints and foot?s tendons becomes disrupted-leading to foot deformity. They are brought about by years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint. It is acknowledged that bunions run in families. One theory advanced by Dr. Burton S. Schuler, a practicing podiatrist for over 38 years, Director of the Ambulatory Foot Clinic in Panama City, Florida, and author of Why You Really Hurt. It All Stars in the Foot, is that it is not necessarily bunions that are inherited but toe length, which can lead to the development of bunions.


Causes
It is thought that the primary cause of bunions is a mechanical instability in the big toe joint. There are a number of different reasons as to why this may happen. Bunions tend to run in families so a person with a family history of bunions has an increased risk of developing them. Factors that are known to increase the risk of bunions include wearing improperly fitting shoes (particularly narrow and/or high-heeled shoes). Certain arthritic conditions and ligament disorders. Age (the incidence of bunions increases with age). Being flatfooted with feet that roll inwards (over pronation). Past injury (trauma) to the foot. Nerve conditions affecting the foot. Bunions most commonly affect women (approximately 90% of cases) and are less common in people who do not regularly wear shoes.


Symptoms
Bunions starts as the big toe begins to deviate, developing a firm bump on the inside edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe. Initially, at this stage the bunion may not be painful. Later as the toes deviate more the bunion can become painful, there may be redness, some swelling, or pain at or near the joint. The pain is most commonly due to two things, it can be from the pressure of the footwear on the bunion or it can be due to an arthritis like pain from the pressure inside the joint. The motion of the joint may be restricted or painful. A hammer toe of the second toe is common with bunions. Corns and calluses can develop on the bunion, the big toe and the second toe due to the alterations in pressure from the footwear. The pressure from the great toe on the other toes can also cause corns to develop on the outside of the little toe or between the toes. The change in pressure on the toe may predispose to an ingrown nail.


Diagnosis
The doctor considers a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position.


Non Surgical Treatment
Detecting and treating bunions can relieve many of the symptoms associated with this condition. Doctors often consider whether the condition requires non-surgical or surgical treatment. The decision is based on the severity of the symptoms. Because bunions often get worse over time, early detection and proper treatment are very important. Some non-surgical methods to reduce the symptoms related to bunions include cushioning the area with padding or tape, taking medication to relieve pain and inflammation, using physiotherapy to reduce pain and related symptoms (e.g., ultrasound, whirlpool baths, joint mobilization), wearing custom orthotics to provide better movement and stability of the foot, wearing well-fitted comfortable shoes that are not too tight (if your shoes used to fit but now are too tight around the bunion area, you may be able to have them stretched in this area), using a special splint at night to decrease the amount the toe angles towards the other toes. When non-surgical methods do not provide relief, surgery may be needed. During surgery, the doctor will remove the tissue or bone in the area of the bunion and attempt to straighten the big toe, and may join the bones of the affected joint.
Bunion Pain


Surgical Treatment
Most bunions can be treated without surgery. But when nonsurgical treatments are not enough, surgery can relieve your pain, correct any related foot deformity, and help you resume your normal activities. An orthopaedic surgeon can help you decide if surgery is the best option for you. Whether you?ve just begun exploring treatment for bunions or have already decided with your orthopaedic surgeon to have surgery, this booklet will help you understand more about this valuable procedure.

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