A bunion deformity, also called hallux valgus, develops when the big toe joint becomes misaligned and the big toe leans inward towards the smaller toes. This alignment change causes the characteristic bump on the side of the foot. Treatment for bunions is necessary when a patient has significant pain and an inability to move around comfortably. This deformity can become painful and severe, particularly in an older person, and can affect his or her overall quality of life.
Bunions change the structural composition of the foot. In older patients, an inability to bend and straighten the big toe may affect their balance and gait, and increase the risk of falls. Initial treatment usually involves changing to well-fitting, comfortable footwear or using splints or orthotics, but when these methods fail to improve symptoms, surgery may “have positive effects on gait and balance,” according to a study in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association.
The goal of surgery is to realign the first metatarsophalangeal joint (big toe joint) in the effort to reduce foot pain and improve balance. In some cases a bunion may become arthritic. Severely damaged joints may need to be reconstructed or replaced with an artificial joint to alleviate complications from bunions.
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