Foot deformities are pretty commonplace as we get older. In fact, more than 25% of adults aged 18-65 suffer from the deformity we call hallux valgus – in common terms, a bunion. When you look at the population over age 65, that percentage jumps to about 36%.

Getting a bunion may not be entirely preventable. Medical experts agree that there is a strong genetic component to getting one. So if they run in your family, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting one, too.

Why bother preventing a bunion?

Even if your genes have predisposed you to getting a bunion, there are ways you can minimize the risk and some valid reasons for doing so. A bunion means that your big toe is out of alignment. The joint at the base of the big toe juts outward and the toe points inward. Eventually, under pressure from the big toe, your smaller toes can suffer from lesions and deformities of their own, including corns, calluses and even hammertoes.

Having a bunion means you’re at a higher risk for developing bursitis (an inflammation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac protecting a joint) or arthritis in your big toe. And, if your big toe is out of whack, you’re going to be less stable on your feet – not good, especially for older adults who are already prone to falling for so many other reasons.

Steps to prevent bunions

  1. Don’t subject your toes to tight or narrow shoes. Cramming toes into narrow spaces is a fantastic way to put pressure on your big toe joint, encouraging toe deformity or making an existing bunion worse.
  2. Minimize your time in high heels – they put a lot of pressure on your toe joints.
  3. Make sure your shoes have excellent support.
  4. Check your feet often for changes in shape.

If you notice a bony bump forming at the base of your big toe, make an appointment with Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm at Clifton Foot & Ankle Center. Dr. Wilhelm can make a proper diagnosis of a bunion and recommend treatment that can either slow down or stop its progress. Those treatments include arch supports, custom orthotics that can fix a biomechanical issue such as under- or overpronation, toe exercises, or steroid injections.

If you ignore a bunion, it will eventually get worse and may one day lead to bunion surgery. You can avoid that by taking steps to prevent or stop one in its tracks, and by consulting board-certified podiatrist Dr. Wilhelm if this common deformity makes an appearance on your feet. Call our office in Centerville, VA at (703) 996-3000 or make an appointment online.

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