Ask the Doctor: Should I Have Bunion Surgery?
A bunion, the bump next to your big toe that throbs when you wear tight shoes, occurs because of abnormal overgrowth of tissue and bone. It can be a painful and impractical condition that disfigures the foot and often becomes a source of embarrassment. Nonetheless, a frequent question we get is “should I get bunion surgery?” Why would anyone want to live with this condition, you might ask? Frankly, many people believe bunion surgery is complicated, painful or doesn’t work. This just isn’t true. If you’re asking yourself “should I have bunion surgery” make sure you’re armed with the facts.
Why Bunion Surgery?
The aim of bunion surgery is to relieve pain and restore normal function by eliminating the bony protuberance and realigning the joint (including ligaments, tendons, and nerves). Different types of surgery can correct a bunion. The surgeon can:
• Remove parts of the damaged joint or big toe bone.
• Stretch the tendons surrounding the big toe.
• Repair the poorly aligned big toe joint.
Each of these measures can improve your shoe fit, better your gait and restore your confidence.
Which Bunion Surgery?
Once you answer should I get bunion surgery, the next logical question is which type. Which type of bunion surgery you need depends on the severity of the bunion and the cause of the bunion. Usually bunion surgery is an elective procedure, and is only performed when you’ve tried everything else. You might be ready to consider bunion surgery if you:
• Cannot walk or perform other necessary daily activities.
• Cannot wear shoes, even comfortable ones, without pain.
• Cannot bend or straighten out your big toe.
• Have constant swelling in your big toe.
• Experience no improvement in your symptoms after taking prescription strength nonsteroidal,, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such an ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
• Notice that your big toe has started to slant toward you other toes.
You may have to consider surgery if your bunion results in persistent, severe pain that limits your daily activities or if you have a severe foot deformity. Surgery is not recommended if you:
• Have not tried nonsurgical treatment.
• Have other health problems that make surgery dangerous. If you have severe diabetes, neuromuscular disorders, or circulatory problems that limit blood flow to your feet, discuss the risks of surgery with your doctor. Such conditions increase the chance of complications after surgery. ONLY YOUR DOCTOR CAN DETERMINE IF YOU ARE A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR SURGERY.
• Have unrealistic expectations about the results of surgery (such as being able to wear any kind of shoe).
Bunion surgery generally involves making an incision in the top or side of the big toe joint area and removing or realigning soft tissue and bone. The goals of surgery for bunions are to:
• Relieve pain and restore normal alignment to the toe joint.
• Restore, as much as possible, normal weight-bearing distribution to the foot.
• Allow you to return to normal activities.
The decision to have bunion surgery should come only after you’ve weighed all of your options.
To contact one of our board certified foot and ankle surgeons please call (239) 481-7000 to make an appointment.