altI am often asked, “Just what is this bump on the side of my foot?” That, in many cases, is what we call a “bunion.” The medical terminology is “hallux abducto valgus.” In simple everyday terms, a bunion is the enlargement of the first metatarsophalangeal, or big toe joint. 
Now, to fully understand this problem, one must think in terms of a progressive deformity – one that will get worse as time goes on.  In my practice, I put it in terms of a “quality of life” issue. If the deformity is significant enough to affect the quality of your life – in terms of pain, activity, shoe wear or just general disposition – you should consider having the bunion surgically corrected. 
There are several things one should be aware of in regard to bunions:
• Bunions are not caused by shoes. Bunions are aggravated by the shoes we wear. For many people, if they never wore shoes, they would still have the bunion, but it would not hurt.
• Bunions are caused by 2 factors: heredity and mechanics. There is usually a strong family trait in regard to who gets a bunion and how severe the bunion is.
• The mechanics of the foot – in particular, pronation – will lead to the continued development of the bunion over time. 
• Bunions can be treated conservatively to reduce the pain, but surgery is the only way to correct the problem.
So, if the bunion does affect the quality of your life, it may be time to seek out professional care and assess the options you might have. Understand that, as with any type of surgery, there is risk involved, and no surgery is guaranteed.  
Ask questions, be informed, seek opinions and, most of all, be comfortable with your decision to have the surgery. 

Dr. Sarah Voelkel recently joined Dr. Alan Mauser’s Louisville Podiatry practice after completing an extensive foot and ankle surgery residency at Norton Audubon Hospital. Dr. Mauser has more than 26 years experience in the medical and surgical management of the foot. Louisville Podiatry offers the most up-to-date and comprehensive podiatric care found in Louisville. Their main office is located at 2525 Bardstown Road. For an appointment, call (502) 458-8989.