Dr K Kannan
The right side has been operated on, in a patient with bilateral deformities.
What is a bunion?
A bunion is essentially a deformity of the big toe. Patients with bunions have a toe that points outwards, as well as a bump on the inner side of the foot. The pain usually ensues as the bunion gets more prominent and calluses are formed. Bunions are a common condition frequently seen in women. Some studies have shown that patients who have family members with bunions are more likely to develop bunions than patients who do not have family members with bunions. In some instances, bunions may be worsened by constrictive footwear, for example, high heels. People who develop bunions normally have multiple factors making them susceptible to the condition.
Can I leave it alone?
If left untreated, bunions can lead to painful swelling, cracked skin, overlapping of the little toes, painful arthritis (wear and tear), and joint stiffness. Sometimes, a patient’s walking pattern may also be affected as the load on the foot is shifted to the outer side. Symptoms, which occur at the site of a bunion, may include:
- Pain or soreness
- Inflammation and redness
- A burning sensation
- Possible numbness
- Painful calluses on the toes and the sole
Symptoms are most evident when wearing ill-fitting shoes such as high heels, especially around the toes. This is why women are more likely to have symptomatic bunions than men. In addition, spending long periods on your feet can aggravate the symptoms.
Do I need to consult a specialist?
Bunions may not be bothersome. However, to fully evaluate the condition, it is advisable to consult a specialist who will determine the degree of deformity and assess the predisposing cause/s for your bunion. If left unchecked, it may cause problems in the future.
Most bunions can be managed non-surgically with silicone toe spacers, night splints, footwear modification, toe stretching, or customized insoles to offload the painful joint. These external supports do not reverse the bunion shape but help to provide more comfort to the feet and prevent any skin callosities from developing.
What is bunion surgery?
Surgery is usually performed as a day surgery procedure. The procedure mainly involves removing the bone “bump” and correcting the toe shape to ensure that symptoms are relieved and pain is reduced. The surgery aims to restore foot shape, allow for excellent joint motion, immediate weight-bearing, and most importantly, low recurrence risk, and excellent appearance.
In selecting the procedure that is right for you, the foot and ankle specialist surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity, based on the assessment findings, your age, your lifestyle, and other factors. Minimally invasive bunion correction techniques are used to ensure very short recovery times. In many cases, the patient can walk the next day and can engage in sporting activities after 3 to 4 weeks.
Dr K Kannan
MBBS (S’pore), MRCS (Edin), MMed (Ortho Surg), FRCS (Edin) (Ortho & Trauma), FAMS (Ortho)
Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
Specialist Orthopaedic Surgery, Singapore