How is a Bunion Diagnosed?


A bunion diagnosis is pursued if there are visible symptoms such as a bony protrusion at the base of the first metatarsal and redness, swelling, or tenderness in the affected area. This can lead to further examination with the following tools:

  • A more in-depth physical exam will occur
  • X-rays of the foot may be used to establish joint and bone integrity, they are used to establish exact alignment patterns of the toes as well
  • X-rays may also be used to determine if there are underlying causes such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis

What Treatments are used for the Correction of Bunions?

Conservative, non-surgical treatments will be tried first and they will include:

  • Rest: Walking and weight bearing activities must be greatly reduced until improvements are seen
  • Modification of Footwear: Wide, flat shoes with a low heel and adequate support can help reduce pain caused by bunions.
  • Anti-inflammation Medications:  Over the counter or prescription anti-inflammatories often provide relief. Aspirin, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve are some of the most popular and easy to find medications available.
  • Ice:  The application of cold often reduce swelling, inflammation, and discomfort due to bunions.
  • Stretching Exercises: Tension on the inner part of the joint can often be reduced through the introduction of stretching exercises, which can often relieve discomfort.
  • Foot Orthoses: A bunion splint and/or custom insoles will increase foot support and help to reposition the foot so that excessive tension, pronation, and uneven pressure on the joints and bones are greatly reduced.

A more invasive, but non-surgical treatment, is injections of cortisone into the inflamed area surrounding the joint at the bottom of the big toe. This can be quite uncomfortable and care must be taken; if the skin shows signs of deterioration or infection antibiotics may be required. Special attention must be paid to diabetic patients.

If conservative treatments are effective in reducing symptoms then steps should be taken to prevent the condition from reoccurring. Continuing to wear proper footwear and resting the feet regularly are two of the most common and effective preventative measures.

If bunion pain and/or deformation is severe and persistent surgery will be considered to reduce or remove the bony protrusion and realign relevant aspects of the foot. Bunion surgery is called a bunionectomy and while surgery is often successful it is not guaranteed; symptoms may return and pain may not be entirely eliminated if post-surgery aftercare is lax. It is essential that the patient use proper footwear and monitor their activity levels post-op.

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