It is a fairly common misconception that bunions are caused by women’s footwear. Although there is a logical reason to believe this (they do place excessive pressure on the front of the foot), the fact remains that kids can get bunions too. When a child develops a case of juvenile bunions, it cannot be attributed to stilettos or pumps.
It is important that you are able to recognize the symptoms in your adolescent child, so our doctors here at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group can provide the care and treatment your son or daughter needs.
Bunions are relatively common. These deformities happen at the base of the big toe at the joint we refer to as the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ). This joint acts like a hinge for the toe and is formed by the first metatarsal bone in the foot and the proximal phalange of the big toe. In the case of a bunion, the bones have become misaligned, with the metatarsal bone pushing outwards and the proximal phalange drifting inwards.
The result is that the MTPJ is pushed outwards and protrudes from the inside edge of the foot. It can be thought of as the point in a sideways “v.” This signature bump is the prominent sign of the condition, but a big toe angling inwards also indicates that the problem is present.
There can be other bunion symptoms as well, including swelling, irritation, redness, and pain. Calluses and corns are more likely to develop in the area in areas of pressure. Walking and even simply wearing shoes can also be difficult or painful.
Bunions seen in younger patients are fairly similar to those found in an adult female—which is the demographic most likely to experience this toe deformity. One key difference—and this is certainly debated within the foot care community— is that the toe abnormalities for grown women may be the result of choices in footwear. The theory is that wearing high-heeled shoes, which have narrow toe areas and place excessive pressure on the front of the foot, can lead to the condition.
Adolescents do not often wear stilettos or pumps frequently enough (or at all) to warrant this as a possible cause. Instead, the condition is likely genetic in nature. Interestingly, female teenagers are still more likely to develop a bunion than their male counterparts.
Treating Bunions in Adolescent Patients
When it comes to treatment for bunions, we hope to do so with the use of conservative, nonsurgical methods. These include:
- Shoe Choices – Finding footwear that offers wide, deep toe boxes can be beneficial. This avoids having too much pressure or friction on the affected area.
- Ice – Having your son or daughter ice the bunion for about fifteen minutes at a time can help to reduce pain and inflammation. It is important to make sure that ice is not placed directly on the skin. Wrap it in a thin cloth or towel to avoid skin damage.
- Medication – As always, consult with our office before administering medicine so we can provide recommendations and appropriate dosage amounts, but non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are useful for managing pain and inflammation.
- Custom Orthotics – Our office can create a special pair of orthotic devices that are custom-fitted to your son or daughter’s foot. This is used to redistribute pressure on the foot and keep it away from the affected area.
When conservative care does not provide enough comfort or pain relief for your child, it will be time to discuss bunion surgery. While this process can be somewhat cosmetic for some older patients, this is never a consideration for teenagers. Surgery is only used to improve mobility and correct a painful condition. If your child has reached this point, we will discuss the options together so you can make an informed decision regarding the health of your child.