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How do you know if you need surgery for bunions? Your feet will usually tell you.

Summer sandal season is nearly upon us; if you’ve been bothered by a bunion—a painful, bony lump at the base of your big toe—now may be the time to seek help. April Nelson, DPM, a MetroHealth podiatrist, breaks down what this common problem is, and what to do about it.

There are three types of bunion surgery. All use small (3-4 centimeter) incisions.

What’s a Bunion?

Bunions develop when the bone in your big toe rotates and starts to push out. They’re more common in women than men and usually crop up in middle age. You can be born with one or inherit the tendency to develop them. (Fun fact: You get your foot structure from your maternal side of the family. If your mother had them, you are more likely to have them.)

You can also develop bunions from tight-fitting or ill-fitting shoes. Think high heels and pointy-toe shoes.

What are the treatment options?

There are a few treatment options for bunions. Orthotics or avoiding shoes that are narrow around the toes is often recommended first, which helps most patients. Surgery can also be an effective treatment option.

When is bunion surgery needed?

If pain is still persistent after using orthotics and/or avoiding narrow shoes after three months, surgery would be recommended.
  • An Austin bunionectomy is the simplest. “We shave off the bunion and make a 60-degree cut in the bone, so we can shift it,” Dr. Nelson explains. Recovery is about 4 to 6 weeks.
  • A Lapidus bunionectomy is a better option to correct a very large bunion. The surgeon shaves off the bunion and fuses the joint to another small bone in your mid-foot. It has an 8-week recovery time.
  • Fusion is an option for people who also have arthritis. The surgeon removes all bad cartilage from the joint, and fuses bones together with a plate and a screw. Recovery takes 6 to 8 weeks.

With the Austin surgery, you can walk in a boot; with the Lapidus and fusion, you’ll likely be on crutches. But after recovery, you can get back to your regular activities, including exercise and sports.

“If you’re concerned about bunions, you should see a podiatrist,” Dr. Nelson says. “There are multiple treatment options, and your doctor can help narrow down the treatment that’s best for you.”
MetroHealth Podiatry

MetroHealth podiatrists treat a wide range of foot issues.

To schedule an appointment at a location near you, call 216-778-2457.