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Forefoot Deformities

Symptoms of Bunions

Bunions, also known as hallux valgus, are bony bumps that form at the big toe joint. They develop slowly and while they can be hereditary or caused by conditions such as polio or arthritis, they are most often caused by pressure on the big toe joint, often from wearing shoes that are too narrow. Eventually, the structure of the bone changes and deformity continues to increase, which can make it painful to walk or even wear shoes. If left untreated, the big toe can cross over or under the second toe and cause additional pain, toe deformities, calluses, and postural problems. Sometimes, bunions can develop into arthritis or bursitis – a condition that occurs when the fluid-filled sac that cushions the bone near the joint becomes irritated. Occasionally, a bunion will form on the joint of the little toe instead of the big toe. In this case, it is known as a bunionette or a “tailor’s bunion.”

Bunion Treatment & Surgery to Correct Bunions

First we will ask about your general health and symptoms, and examine your foot. In most cases, we will also order an X-ray to check the alignment of your toes and look for damage to the big toe joint.

There is no way to reverse a bunion without surgery, but options to reduce pain and prevent it from worsening include changing your shoes, wearing bunion shield pads, using orthotic devices, applying ice, and taking anti-inflammatory medications. However, if your pain persists, we may recommend surgery to re-align the bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves to correct the position of your big toe. Most surgical options are done in one day with no hospital stay, but full recovery can take several months.

Hammer Toes and Mallet Toes: Symptoms and Treatment

When the toe starts to curl up instead of lying flat, it is known as a hammer toe or a mallet toe. When it is the middle joint of the toe that is affected, it is known as a hammertoe and if it is the lowest joint (nearest the toenail) it is called mallet toe. Both may cause pain when you wear shoes, and are often caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes or by muscle imbalance. If left untreated, the muscles in the toes will weaken and additional pain will persist. Hammer toes and mallet toes can usually be treated with exercises and by wearing wider shoes, applying ice, and using toe splints and strapping devices. If these treatments do not relieve your symptoms, surgery may be an option. This surgery is typically an outpatient procedure with regional anesthetic. Afterwards, you can expect some stiffness and swelling, the shape of your foot may change, and you will be able to walk right away, but you should avoid any long walks until the healing is complete.

Diagnosing and Treating Claw Toe

Like other foot deformities, claw toes can be caused by wearing too-tight shoes – but it can also be caused by trauma, inflammation, or nerve damage from diabetes or neurologic conditions, which weaken the muscles of the feet. Claw toes occur when the toes curl under and dig into the soles of your shoes, causing painful calluses and corns. Claw toes will typically be flexible at first, but tend to harden into place if left untreated. To find the cause of your claw toes, we will usually prescribe certain tests to ensure there are no neurological disorders weakening your foot muscles. In the early stages, simply changing your shoes, using splints and tape, and performing simple exercises may be all the treatment you need. If your toes have already become fixed into the claw position, conservative treatment options include a special pad to redistribute your weight and reduce pressure, or special shoes with extra space in the toe box. If you still experience pain, corrective surgery may be the best option.