Bunions are commonly associated with pumps, stilettos, and other stylish shoes for grown-up ladies. As such, most people think that this condition is one that can only happen to adults. Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, L.L.C., wants you to know that children can also develop these toe deformities. Understanding juvenile bunions will enable you to recognize when your son or daughter needs treatment for an often painful situation.
The Basics of Bunions
Pediatric bunions are quite similar to those experienced by adults. In this condition, the two bones that make up the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ)—the joint where the big toe connects to the base of the foot—have become unaligned. The toe bone (phalange) starts to drift inwards, towards the other toes, while the long bone running lengthwise in your foot (metatarsal) angles outwards, towards the inside edge of your foot.
The result of these bones losing alignment is that the joint itself becomes enlarged and a bony protrusion develops in the area. Frequently, the soft tissues that make up the joint become hardened and the condition leads to swelling, pain, and even an inability to wear shoes or walk without severe discomfort.
While the conditions are quite similar, there are also some slight differences between pediatric and adult bunions. When a child develops this protruding bone, it is typically the result of an inherited structural issue. Specifically, the big toe’s phalange is typically angled excessively towards the other four toes, or the MTPJ’s cartilage shifts and results in that angling. For adults, overgrowth or excess bone might exacerbate the bunion, but this is rarely the case for our young patients.
There is a certain degree of debate about whether shoes actually cause this deformity, but there does appear to be at least a degree of correlation between wearing women’s footwear and developing these toe deformities. Shoes that are typically deemed to be stylish, like pumps or stilettos, place excessive pressure on the fronts of feet, while at the same time squishing toes together. Given that children are not prone to wearing high heel shoes, however, the root causes of juvenile bunions are bound to be different. It is interesting to note that girls are still more likely to have them than boys.
Conservative Treatment for Pediatric Bunions
We strive to achieve two objectives from treatment – manage symptoms and address any structural problems. When we tackle foot or ankle conditions, it is always our hope to handle them with conservative methods. To manage symptoms, we often recommend avoiding shoes with narrow toe boxes, modifying activities, and using padding to provide comfort. With regard to structural treatments, custom orthotics, toe splints, toe spacers, or supportive shoe gear might be used.
Juvenile Bunion Surgery
We hold this as a last resort for when conservative care is inadequate, but surgery is sometimes used to treat this condition. Fortunately, surgical procedures are usually rather successful in correcting the bone structure and realigning the appropriate bones. In some cases, this presents the best opportunity to correct the condition and provide pain relief for your child. It is important to note that it is best to wait for boys to be around 15-17 years old and girls to be in the 13-15 year age range, since this is approximately the point where they reach skeletal maturity.
Exceptional Pediatric Care in Medford, OR
Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, L.L.C. exists to provide first-class podiatric services for you and your whole family, including your children. When your son or daughter is suffering from the pain that often accompanies juvenile bunions, Dr. Evan Merrill and the staff at our Medford, OR office will assess the situation and create an effective treatment plan. You can take comfort in the fact that your son or daughter is in good hands and will receive the care necessary to put his or her pain to rest. Call us today at (541) 776-3338 or use our online form to schedule an appointment.