A bunion is a bony outgrowth that develops on the joint right at the base of the big toe.The big toe forcibly pushing against the second toe is what causes bunions to form.
Two joints make up the big toe, the largest of which is the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP). When the big toe leans against the next toe, it gets into an abnormally bent position, causing its joint to swell and bulge outward.
The resulting enlarged joint is usually red and bulbous. The term “bunion” is derived from the Greek word of the same name which means turnip.
Complications of bunions
While bunions are not frequent troublemakers, they can be stubborn and hang on indefinitely unless they are surgically fixed. If ever, complications that come with bunions can include:
In this condition, the ball of the foot becomes swollen and painful.
This is a condition where a toe’s middle joint is bent permanently downward. In the case of bunions, this is usually a result of the big toe crowding the space of second toe (see photo).
Bursitis is a painful condition caused by the inflammation of the small fluid-filled sacs called bursae. The bursae cushion and lessen the friction of the moving parts of the body, particularly the joints.
What causes bunions?
The exact information as to what causes bunions is still unclear. However, there are a number of well-substantiated explanations about how they may develop. Probable factors include:
- Congenital deformities or foot defect at birth
- Injuries sustained by the foot
- Wearing tight narrow shoes can cause bunions or aggravate them
- Foot structure (hereditary). Some individuals are more likely to develop bunions due to the way their feet are formed.
- Bunions are also linked to some forms of inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
What are the symptoms of a bunion?
Bunions show certain signs and symptoms that are easily noticeable:
- A large bulge at the base of the big toe on the foot’s outside area.
- Constant or occasional pain
- Redness, pain and inflammation around the metatarsophalangeal or big toe joint.
- Limited movement of the big toe
- Corns or calluses where the first and second toes overlay
When to seek medical attention
While bunions don’t often need special treatment, consult a podiatrist or foot specialist if you experience any of the following symptoms.
- Persistent pain on the foot, specifically on the big toe.
- Difficulty in wearing shoes because of the pain and swelling.
- Limited movement of the big toe.
- A prominent bulge at the base of the big toe joint.
Factors that can cause or worsen bunions
There are certain factors that can heighten the risk of bunions, or worsen existing ones.
Shoes with a bad fit
Wearing shoes that are too narrow, too tight, or too pointy are more likely to cause bunions.
Wearing high-heeled shoes jams your toes down and into the front of your shoes. This squeezes the toes together and makes them abnormally aligned.
Hereditary foot type
People who tend to form bunions more likely have inherited structural foot defect.
Individuals with inflammatory conditions like arthritis are more potentially prone to bunion development.
Other bunion types
There are other types of bunions aside from the common bunion variety.
Bunionettes form on the joint of the little toe. Also referred to as “tailor’s bunion”, it develops on the foot’s outer area just below the little toe. While it occurs in another part of the foot, a bunionette has many similarities with the common bunion. Callus, corn, and painful bursitis may form over bulge.
This type of bunion usually occurs in young girls with ages ranging from 10 to 15 years. While wearing tight and narrow shoes is what causes bunions in adults, adolescent bunions are mostly hereditary and run in the family. An adolescent bunion sufferer can still have some freedom of motion on the big toe instead of being restricted as in the case of adult bunions. The common factor, however, is that an adolescent bunion makes it difficult to wear shoes due to the painful swelling.
How to prevent bunions
Ill-fitting shoes are one of the factors in what causes bunions. Buy the right size of shoes for your feet. See to it that there is a space between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
Avoid narrow and pointy shoes. Your shoes should comfortably adjust to the shape of your feet. Be sure they don’t squeeze your toes or press against any part of your foot. Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes for prolonged periods.
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Shoes provide your feet with comfort and protection. They can also enhance your appearance if you are the fashion-conscious type. However, shoes and other footwear can cause you a lot of feet problems and discomfort later on if you continue with bad habits that you may not be aware of.
You use shoes without proper arch support
Whether you are flatfooted or have high-arched feet, it won’t do you any harm to wear shoes with adequate arch support. In fact, it can do you a world of good as it can help to align your feet correctly as well as provide more comfort. If you experience persistent feet discomfort, you should consider seeing a podiatrist regarding the use of shoe inserts and custom orthotics. These devices can get the pressure off the heel by bracing the arches and lessen feet problems while walking.
Using the same old and worn-out pair of shoes
Why replace a still usable pair just when they’re getting to be comfortable, you may ask. Look at the heel area underneath your shoes. You will notice that one side is more worn and thinned-out than the other. This is a normal occurrence, as every individual has their own unique manner of walking. Some tend to lean more heavily on one side of their body. The weight is then transferred to and absorbed by the shoe’s heel. The downside is your feet and ankles will get injured eventually due to the unequal wear on the shoe heels. You won’t be able to walk or stand still in the normal manner.
You try on a new pair of shoes in the morning
The best time to try on new shoes at the store is later in the day and not earlier. This is because your feet tend to bulge slightly in later part of the day when the blood settles in the lower extremities of your body. For this reason, you should try on new shoes at around noon or even later when your feet have already expanded slightly. This will give enough allowance for the swelling of your feet in the middle of the day. By doing this, you won’t end up with a pair that’s too tight, prevent feet problems, and allow breathing room for your feet.
Feet problems develop when toes get squeezed tightly in narrow, pointy-toed shoes
You could be killing your toes by jamming and squeezing them in pointy-toed shoes. To make matters worst, they could be narrow pointy-toed high-heeled shoes. Do this often and you’ll end up with foot disorders that include plantar fasciitis, hammer toes, bunions, and nerve injury. Check out the appearance of the pair you’re buying. If the shoes end up to a narrow point that can crush your toes, then you might as well shop for a more comfortable (and foot-friendly) pair and spare yourself from future feet problems.
You tend to rush when trying on new shoes
While you should consider the right time of day to try on new shoes, you must also know that there is a right position and length of time to do it. When you try on a new pair, it’s best to do it while you’re standing. This way, your feet will be able to slide down and in, giving them the opportunity to feel if the fit is just right. Check how your toes are sitting inside your shoes. Make sure that there is sufficient space for all your toes to be comfortably positioned. See to it that the shoe has long enough forward space so your longest toe (generally the second toe) won’t be cramped. Now, walk around with the new pair for about five to ten minutes to be sure that you’re comfortable in them.
You fail to replace your worn-down running shoes regularly
If you run five miles for five days a week, you may need to replace your running shoes practically every month. That is, if you believe the traditional hundred-mile rule that states that you should replace your pair of running shoes after you’ve run 100 miles. While this monthly shoe replacement rule may sound expensive, it is worth keeping even if you should replace your shoes after more than a month. Due to the constant impact from running, the sole and cushioned padding of your shoes can get thin and worn-out. This can decrease the protection your feet get from your shoes as they hit the ground. You’ll need to replace your overused pair of running shoes if pain begins to develop in your feet, ankles, knees, and hips.
You shop online for your shoes
Shoes that are too small or too narrow can hurt your toes. Likewise, shoes that are too wide or too big can adversely affect the way you walk. The well-known phrase that “size matters” aptly applies to shoes. Some podiatrists disapprove of the habit of people buying shoes online. This denies the buyers of the opportunity to try on the shoes that they are paying for. Online buyers don’t have the chance to fit on the shoes to ensure they have the right size that will be comfortable to wear and walk in. Shoes that have the wrong fit can often cause blisters, feet problems and other injuries.
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While foot problems are year-round concerns for many people, summer is the worst time to nurse one. This is the time of the year when people walk a lot in the sunshine on bare feet. It’s the time when children do a lot of running and complaining of heel pain later on. It’s also the time of blisters, smelly feet, and athlete’s foot. Podiatrists love this time of the year when they receive a lot of patients.
We asked foot specialists their best recommendations for keeping your feet pain-free in the summer and any other time of the year.
Heel pain in children
Podiatrists treat a lot of children with foot problems mostly in the summer. Kids just can’t resist running on bare feet especially during play. They are mostly afflicted with heel pain when the growth plates in their heels become overused and inflamed. Podiatrists recommend the right footwear for the activity. Kids who love running should wear running shoes and not basketball shoes. Running shoes are designed with better arch support than cross trainers and other sports shoes. Podiatrists advice against using sneakers flip-flops, and sandals with thin bendable soles that don’t provide any support for most areas of the foot.
Possible cancer on sun-damaged feet
People who love to walk barefoot on a hot beach should make it an important part of their day to apply sunscreen on the top of their feet. Many foot doctors have observed the rise in incidence of cancerous growths on their patients during the past years. Podiatrists advice the generous application of sunblock with a rating of at least SPF 30 on your feet. It should cover the top area and the spaces between the toes.
Foot problems from the use of improper footwear
Numerous feet problems like plantar fasciitis and tendonitis can arise from using shoes that don’t provide enough ankle, heel, and arch support. The culprits are usually flat sneakers, sandals, flip-flops, and high-heeled shoes. If you must use them, podiatrists recommend wearing them only for a short time. They could be more comfortable and feet-friendly if they have inserts with arch support. Shoe inserts can fit into most any shoes and prevent foot, ankle, and back pain. They can also relieve some of the discomfort and pain if you have already developed them. Another preventive step is to do some foot stretches after each work day if you are prone to heel pain.
The pain and discomfort of breaking in new shoes
Photo by chispita_666 on Foter.com / CC BY
Your feet can be at war with that new pair of shoes you’ve just bought. As a result, painful blisters and other foot irritations can develop. There are special blister pads and bandages you can use to reduce the chances of injury. The gel-filled pads act to cushion and create a buffer zone to decrease friction between the skin and the shoe. Put these pads in the area where the shoe material rubs against the skin to prevent blisters from forming. You can also use them to cover an existing blister and protect it from further injury and infection. These blister pads and bandages are designed to be unnoticeable that you can wear them with sandals or flip-flops.
Blisters can be tough
Blisters are tough and can develop despite the best preventive steps. If they do develop, podiatrists vehemently stressed that you should never attempt to burst them to avoid exposing them to infection. Instead, you should apply a topical antibiotic on the blister and cover it with bandage. If the blister becomes enlarged, consult a foot specialist at once as there’s a chance it is infected.
Once your feet develops infection, your best step is to give it a bath of white vinegar or malt. While this won’t be as effective as an antibiotic medication, it will definitely alleviate the accompanying itch that can be very annoying.
The irritation (and embarrassment) of smelly feet
We really can’t consider smelly feet one of the major foot problems. However, they can be bothersome, not to mention embarrassing. Be sure to air out your shoes after each use. This will inhibit the growth and development of odor-causing bacteria as well as infectious fungi. If possible, buy another pair of shoes that you can wear alternately with the other pair.
How to prevent your feet from sweating
Never mind the bad foot odor it can cause, feet that sweat profusely can also develop cracked, scaly skin and fungus infection. To prevent your feet from overly-sweating, spray them with antiperspirant each morning before wearing your shoes and in the evening after taking them off. The aluminum component in the antiperspirant will stop up the sweat ducts and prevent foot perspiration.
Cornstarch and foot powder against athlete’s foot
Make it a habit of daily sprinkling the inside of your shoes with cornstarch, talcum powder, or foot powder. This will help keep the shoe interior fresh and free from fungal growth that cause foot problems. If your feet develops itchy scaly skin usually below and between the toes, and you can’t help but scratch it till it bleeds, chances are you have athlete’s foot or a similar infection. As a rule, don’t walk in your bare feet or wear flip-flops in locker rooms and public swimming pool areas. These places are favorable breeding grounds for infection-causing fungus and bacteria.
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Of all your body parts, the feet perhaps takes most of the punishment. While it is the most used, it is also the least cared for. It would be fortunate if it gets a monthly foot massage. No wonder foot pain causes usually develop in this area. Avoid abusing your feet or your health and lifestyle could suffer.
Here are some foot pain causes that are preventable if you provide your feet with proper care and attention.
You disregard foot pain causes
You do not have to be a long-distance runner to develop foot disorders caused by overuse injuries. You may think you are not prone to feet pain since you’re not into feet-intensive sports. Any discomfort or slight pain is ignored. Untreated foot pain can only turn worse over time. Consider seeing a foot specialist if you sense that there’s something wrong.
You wear high heeled shoes regularly
Wearing shoes with heels over two inches high can hurt your feet at the end of each work day. Your feet and legs will need to adjust to the heel height to help you walk. This overcompensation of your foot muscles can eventually lead to painful disorders like plantar fasciitis and bone spurs. If you should wear shoes with elevated heels, keep the heels two inches or less to avoid feet pain.
You almost never give your feet time to breathe
Stuffing your feet in socks and shoes during your work days can cause it to sweat. A sweaty foot can be an ideal breeding ground for fungus that cause athlete’s foot and other infections. What’s more, sweat often leads to offensive foot odor. Always allow your feet some time to air out after a workout or a long day at the office. To keep fungal growth at bay, change your socks once a day to give your feet that dry fresh feeling. Remember to dry your feet thoroughly after every shower.
You put weight on your feet unevenly
If you usually carry a heavy briefcase, purse, or shoulder bag on a favored side, the uneven distribution of weight can cause neck pain, back ache, and Achilles tendonitis. Try switching sides when you carry your things. You can also try carrying two smaller loads, one in each hand, so your feet carry equal weight.
You wear old or worn-out shoes
It may be an unpleasant task to break in a new pair of shoes. However, wearing an old worn-out pair can slant your feet at a bad angle and cause it to hit the ground uncomfortably. This can impair your normal way of walking and lead to foot pain causes like aching feet, hip pain, and backache. Replace your shoes, specially if you use them for running and other sports, when their soles wear out and tilt at an abnormal angle.
You neglect to treat dry or rough skin on the sole of your feet
The dry or rough skin at the sole of your feet that you tend to ignore can turn into skin fissures later on. This can take a bad turn and lead to foot infection. While showering, use a pumice stone to gently scrape off dead skin from your sole. Regular moisturizing can make your feet supple and healthy. Rough or scaly skin can indicate a fungal infection on your foot. Treat it with an antifungal medication, not skin lotion.
You don’t use the right footwear for the activity or sport
Your regular sneakers are not your one footwear for all sports. Every sport or physical activity have particular aspects or attributes that require the use of certain types of footwear. Walking or running, for instance, require shoes designed for the forward movement of the feet. Sports like soccer and basketball require shoes adapted for sudden turns and side-to-side motions.
You love to go barefoot
If you are the type who loves to walk around barefoot, then you should consider the risks you’re taking. Habitually walking barefoot can eventually lead to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon pain, and even aching joints. While certain activities like Pilates and yoga don’t require you to wear shoes, remember to incorporate balance and variety. Make sure to alternatively mix workouts requiring shoes with activities that allow you to go barefoot.
You use outdoor footwear inside your house
Footwear that you use for work and outdoor activities shouldn’t be worn inside your house. Your outdoor shoes collect a lot of germs and microorganisms from dirty streets and various places. Wearing outdoor shoes indoors is inviting fungus and a host of disease-causing microbes inside your home. Keep your home germ-free by changing into a pair of indoor footwear.
You trim your toenails improperly
You may cut your toenails improperly by trimming them too short or rounded. This mistake can lead to foot pain causes like ingrown toenails. As the misshaped nail begins to grow into the skin, it can cause discomfort and, later on, some pain. Pain can be felt when the toes are squeezed or rubbed against each other. Cut your toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails from developing. If you suffer from diabetes, be sure to have your toenails trimmed by a podiatrist.
You don’t wear slippers (or outdoor footwear) inside your house
You probably live in a home with tile, marble, or hardwood floor where walking barefoot feels good. It may feel good at the start but, over time, the natural padding at the sole of your feet can grow thin and eventually wear down. This will leave you with a strange sensation later on that you’re stepping on nothing but mere skin and bones. Offer your feet some protection by wearing slippers with orthopedic foot support if you’re not wearing any shoes at home.
You keep using the same pair of shoes over and over again
It may be your favorite pair of footwear you’re using everyday. It’s good-looking and quite comfortable but they don’t actually offer any other benefits. What’s bad in using them for countless hours is they can stress and weaken your feet by continually using the same foot areas for walking and support. Switch between other pairs of equally comfortable footwear and wear them alternately during the week.
You allow your feet to get sunburned
Your feet can get sunburned after staying all day on the beach.
Prevent this, as well as premature skin aging and various forms of skin cancer, by applying sunscreen on them. Besides, it can be quite painful to put on shoes with sunburned feet.
You insist on wearing flats, flip-flops and sandals everyday
Flat shoes, flip-flops and sandals don’t offer shock absorption, heel cushioning, and adequate arch support. If you insist on using these footwear everyday for work and leisure, then be prepared for foot pain causes such as fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, bunions, metatarsalgia, and certain bone problems.
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As a diabetic, you can have an injury in some part of your body and not be aware of it. This also applies to your feet due to the nerve damage that comes with the disease. Diabetic foot care can ensure less chances of foot injury and its complications.
The feet is one area that is prone to injury and other complications. This is because the feet are at the frontline of activities that include standing, walking, running, carrying body weight, and wearing footwear.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, one of your first concerns is to see a foot specialist or podiatrist. The specialist can offer expert advice on foot care that can reduce the risk of cuts, bruises, blisters as well as possible complications.
What you should know about diabetic foot care
Loss of foot sensation
Nerve damage due to diabetes can cause gradual deprivation of sensation. This can eventually lead to LOPS or loss of protective sensation. LOPS is a leading risk factor in the development of diabetic foot ulcerations. With loss of the protective sensation, a diabetic person will be unable to feel cuts and other form of ulcers in their foot. Wounds and ulcers can lead to foot amputation.
Perform a daily check of your feet for problem signs
A daily foot check should be a regular health routine as brushing your teeth and getting yourself hydrated. Redness, inflammation, bruising, or ingrown toenails are signs of foot problems. Tell a podiatrist regarding any cut or ulceration on the foot, no matter how small.
Protection against nerve damage
Nerve disorders in diabetics are caused by various factors. The major factor is high blood sugar levels. Maintaining a low blood glucose level is the best preventive step to keep nerve damage at bay. There are also some conclusive indications that regulating lipid levels can slow down the development of nerve disorder.
Be careful when trimming toenails
Do not allow your nails to dig down on the sides of your toe. If you show indications of nerve or vascular disorder, you won’t be able to feel if you cut yourself and won’t have enough blood supply to heal it. It would be safer if you let your podiatrist trim your toenails. If you trim your toenails yourself, the clipper should cut straight across the nail. Do not cut the nails into a curved shape.
Regularly visit a foot specialist
A podiatrist can examine the condition of your foot and treat it in case of injury. Bear in mind that foot damage and amputation can be avoided with proper foot care.
Footwear and other foot care advice
Use good judgment when buying your footwear
This diabetic foot care tip is especially important in warm weather. Footwear that provide more protection than sandals or flip-flops are better for neuropathic conditions. If you have nerve disorder, it will be best not to wear sandals with straps that make contact with the toes. Also avoid using flip-flops that tend to put more stress against the foot. If you must wear flip-flops and sandals, be sure to read this first.
Walking barefoot can be your enemy
The trend of barefoot walking has become popular to many people, even diabetics. Losing protective sensation in your feet can attract a lot of problem if you walk barefoot. Prevent foot injury by wearing shoes in and out of your home. There are a lot of podiatrist-approved shoes that you can keep in various places around the house.
Constantly monitor your blood glucose levels
A physician can instruct you how to regulate and monitor your blood glucose levels. Glucose level testing at home regularly is a vital tool to manage your diabetic foot care and prevent other possible complications of diabetes.
Check your shoes for items lodged inside
Before wearing your shoes, see to it that there are no foreign objects lodged inside. Cuts and ulcerations caused by these items inside the shoes have often resulted in diabetics to lose a limb through amputation.
Make it a habit to wear white socks
Wear white socks every time. This will make it easier to catch sight of a cut or an open ulcer due to its drainage on the sock.
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