One of the more common foot and ankle misconceptions in society is the belief bunions are caused exclusively by women’s shoes. Whether or not high-heeled, pointy-toed footwear can actually lead to the condition is a matter of debate within in the medical community, but it is safe to say pumps and stilettos are not the sole source of this common toe deformity. If anyone needs proof of this, they simply need to look no further than juvenile bunions.
At Brook Valley Podiatry, Dr. Stuart Birnbaum and his staff provide exceptional foot care services for patients of all ages from our greater Brooklyn and Rockland County communities, from children to older adults. This includes treatment for bunions affecting adolescents.
What is a Bunion?
As we look at the causes and treatment options for juvenile bunions, the best starting point is to look at the ailment itself. Whether a bunion develops for an adult or a child, the condition begins with an imbalance in the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint found at the base of the big toe.
Imbalances within the MTP joint can create a situation where the first metatarsal (long, thin bone running the length of the mid- and forefoot) begins to angle outwards (towards the inside of the foot), while the phalange (toe bone) starts drifting in towards the other toes. In turn, this leads to the MTP joint jutting out along the inside edge of the foot.
Bunion Causes and Symptoms
The main reason behind a bunion is an imbalance, but more specifically, foot injuries, inherited foot types, and congenital deformities—those present at birth—are the main culprits. In some patients, the root cause of a bunion was arthritis, but this is not often the case for juvenile bunions.
The most likely explanation for a juvenile bunion is genetic inheritance, specifically excessive pronation—often as a result of flat feet—and hypermobility (loose joints). Overpronation leads to excessive pressure on the base of the big toe. In rarer circumstances, the bunion was caused by neurological disorders (like cerebral palsy), low muscle tone, or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
There are a couple of bunion symptoms, but the most obvious is simply the bunion itself. In addition to the unusual, bony bump, a child or adolescent might experience pain and discomfort when wearing certain shoes or participating in physical activities. Many times, the bunion is reddened.
Treating Juvenile Bunions
Treatment for an adolescent’s bunion has some commonalities with those we might use for an adult patient. In both cases, our hope is to relieve symptoms and slow (or stop) the progression of the deformity with the use of conservative methods. These include footwear modifications or choices, orthotic devices, night splints, and even exercises to strengthen supporting muscles and improve the joint’s mobility.
When conservative treatment does not provide the desired results, it might be time to consider a surgical procedure. With that said, surgical correction is not recommended until the foot bones have reached physical maturity.
It is important to bring your son or daughter in to see us at the earliest opportunity after noticing the development of a juvenile bunion. The condition is progressive, which means it will worsen over time when left untreated. Given the (hopefully) long life ahead of a child, there is more time available for the bunion to become severe and cause major problems.
Professional Bunion Care in Spring Valley and Midwood Brooklyn, NY
Dr. Birnbaum and his staff treat a wide array of foot and ankle conditions for patients young and old here at Brook Valley Podiatry. If your son or daughter has developed a juvenile bunion, or requires other medical care for a lower limb issue, do not hesitate to contact us by calling (718) 434-0600 to reach our Midwood, Brooklyn office or (845) 352-0757 for our Spring Valley office. We will be glad to answer any questions you might have or assist you in scheduling an appointment for either location. You can also take advantage of our online form to request your appointment with us today.