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A bunion is a bony protrusion on the outer side of the big toe which causes the end of the toe to point inward. Uncomfortable, tight-fitting shoes are usually the cause of bunions, though they may also appear due to a congenital deformity, arthritis, or an inherited foot disorder. There are many different methods for bunion removal, the simplest of which involves wearing more comfortable shoes and avoiding over-activity. Orthotic shoe inserts and cushioned pads can help straighten the toe and reduce pain caused by the deformity. A persistent or very painful bunion may need to be surgically removed in order to relieve symptoms.
Doctors usually suggest that patients try several different methods for bunion removal before resorting to surgery. A person can often find relief by simply avoiding high heels and other tight fitting shoes. Investing in sandals or comfortable running shoes can significantly reduce pressure on the big toe, allowing the bunion time to heal. An individual may find that wrapping tape or a bandage around the toe can lessen swelling and encourage the bunion to get smaller. In addition, icing the foot and taking anti-inflammatory medications further reduce symptoms while the bunion heals.
Foot problems that persist despite home remedies usually require a trip to the podiatrist's office to learn about different methods for bunion removal. A podiatrist might suggest over-the-counter or custom made shoe inserts called orthotics that are designed to take pressure off of the bunion and cushion the big toe. Some patients are prescribed orthotic shoes or night braces that gradually force the toe joint back into alignment. If orthotics are ineffective, the doctor and his or her patient can consider surgery.
There are a few different methods for bunion removal that involve surgery. In the case of a small bunion, a surgeon may elect to perform a bunionectomy. The procedure involves cutting away inflamed tissue and the protruding bone mass, and forcing the toe back into its correct alignment. Another surgical treatment called arthrodesis is performed in the case of a severely maligned toe. During arthrodesis, the surgeon removes excess tissue and permanently fuses toe joints together to prevent a bunion from reappearing.
After the surgeon employs one of the different methods for bunion removal, the patient is typically fitted with a foot cast to give the toe time to heal. After a period of up to two months, a doctor removes the cast and evaluates the effectiveness of the operation. A patient may still need to wear custom orthotics and avoid strenuous activity for a few more months to ensure a full recovery.