Are Genes or High Heels Responsible for Your Bunions?

high heels, bunions, genes, Orthopaedic Podiatric & Spine

Why do some people have bunions and others don’t? If you have bunions, you’ve probably heard conflicting information about the reasons. It turns out, there’s disagreement among experts as to what, exactly, causes bunions.

What is a bunion?

A bunion is a lump at the base of your big toe. It’s different from a callus in that a bunion is bony rather than a buildup of skin. It’s actually the joint of your big toe sticking out.

Another type of bunion, called a bunionette or tailor’s bunion, forms on the outside of your foot, and is the joint of your pinky toe.

Bunions are painful. You probably have a persistent pain in your big toe, difficulty moving your toe, and trouble finding shoes that fit properly and comfortably.

The bunion debate

Researchers disagree about whether the underlying cause of bunions is genetic or lifestyle factors, such as wearing poorly fitting shoes. Current research suggests that genetics may predispose you to developing bunions and that lifestyle factors may further increase your risk.

One of the names of a bunion on the joint of your pinky toe, a tailor’s bunion, may be evidence in favor of lifestyle factors being the cause of bunions. They are called tailor’s bunions because, many years ago, tailors sat cross-legged as they worked, with the outsides of their feet rubbing against the floor.

Tailor’s often developed bunionettes because of the pressure on the joint of their pinky toes due to how they sat. The pressure caused the joint to become deformed.

However, more recent research seems to show that genetic factors related to how your foot is shaped and how the bones move when you walk make it more or less likely that you’ll get bunions.

If you are genetically predisposed to bunions, and you choose shoes that have a narrow toe box, high heels, or that are too tight, you’re far more likely to develop bunions than a person who makes the same kind of shoe choices, but who doesn’t have the genetic predisposition.

Bunions can also be caused by other conditions. For example, both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can lead to bunions, as can some other inflammatory diseases.

Treating bunions

Regardless of the main cause of your bunions, there are treatment options. The treatment plan your doctor at Orthopaedic Podiatric & Spine Institute recommends will depend on many factors, including your medical history and the severity of your bunions, among others.

Conservative treatments include changing the type of shoe you wear, or using padding, taping, or splinting to relieve the pain. Medication or cortisone injections may help control the pain. Ice, and shoe inserts are other options.

In some cases your doctor may recommend surgery. There are a variety of surgical approaches for correcting bunions.

If you’d like to learn more about the bunion treatments available at Orthopaedic Podiatric & Spine, book your appointment at either our Crown Point or Munster office. Scheduling online or by phone is quick and easy, and we look forward to helping you live with less bunion pain.

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