By Brett D. Sachs, DPM
If your mother had a bunion, and you have one, too, the chances are pretty good that your child has the same type of foot structure and the same risk of developing this big toe deformity. Bunions in children are nothing to fool around with, so when you notice any of the following symptoms, get your child in for an examination as soon as possible.
How to Recognize a Juvenile Bunion
The first sign will not be the characteristic bump that eventually forms by your child’s big toe. Your first indication of a problem will be noticing a red spot on the side of the foot. There may be some swelling, too, or your child might complain that his or her shoes feel tight. Uneven wear on the soles of his or her shoes may be evident as well. If your child complains of sore feet or ankles when playing sports or running around, that’s another clue. You may even realize something is wrong when you take them shopping for shoes and can’t find a pair that fits comfortably.
What Causes Bunions in Children?
Because it happens so early in life, it is likely that juvenile bunions are the result of an inherited foot structure and gait, rather than poor-fitting shoes, which often contribute to adult bunions. Your child may not have symptoms at first, so it is important that you have us examine any related conditions like flat feet or overpronation, so we can be on the lookout for this problem.
Dr. Matthew Paden, Dr. Brett D. Sachs, and Dr. Dustin Kruse will analyze your child’s feet and legs, looking for any deviations from normal lines and shapes. We will move various joints to check for looseness and range of motion, and may order an X-ray to see the bone structure clearly. We can also get clues from the wear patterns on your child’s shoes.
Treatment for Juvenile Bunions
When bunions in children are caught early, we may advise you to try several conservative treatments. The first is choosing proper shoes that allow the toes to lie flat and straight. We may have your child wear night splints while sleeping to encourage proper growth of the bones and tendons. We may also prescribe exercises and stretches to help the joints stay mobile and the muscles strong to hold the foot in place. Custom orthotics have been very successful at reducing pain, correcting faulty biomechanics, and keeping the toes in proper alignment. Many times these will correct the problem, but not always.
When Surgery Is Needed
In some cases, we use a procedure called epiphysiodesis that provides good results. It involves putting a staple on the growth plate of the metatarsal that connects to the big toe. The staple halts growth on that side, and the joint straightens out as the opposite side of the bone keeps growing.
If the bones are fully grown, there are several other surgical procedures that can correct the problem and restore natural movement. They include removing part of the protruding bone, cutting and realigning bones to fix them in a better position, removing extraneous soft tissue, fusing bones in the right position, and repairing damaged tendons and ligaments.
Any surgery is a big step, but surgery for bunions in children require special considerations. We want you to make an informed decision, so we will explain which technique will result in the best outcome for your child and walk you through all the steps of the process. We have extensive experience in reconstructive surgery, so you can trust your child’s feet to our expert care. Contact Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center by calling our Wheat Ridge, CO, office at (303) 423-2520 for an appointment.
Photo Credit: Daniel St.Pierre via FreeDigitalPhotos.net