My Child Has a Bunion: Do They Need Surgery?

Vintage, antique athletic shoes on a white background with jeansBunions aren’t just found in adults. These painful bumps can occur in children too, especially in teenagers. Bunions cause pain, sometimes severe, and children are often especially embarrassed by them.

No one wants their child suffer from a painful health condition, let alone have to undergo surgery to fix the ailment. With that being said, it’s important to know when it’s necessary to have bunion surgery. The answer largely depends on the level of discomfort they are experiencing and whether their activity is limited as a result. Severe bunions can be incredibly painful and prevent children from participating in sports, walking long distances, and being active in general.

If left untreated, bunions can lead to chronic pain, deformity, and arthritis, as well as hammer toes, ingrown nails and calluses. There are non-surgical options that may treat symptoms. However, when nothing else alleviates pain, surgery may be your child’s only option.

The bunions children get are somewhat different than bunions in adults. In adults, a bunion forms from misalignment of the big toe joint, while children suffer from structural problems. These structural problems can range from the bones pointing inward too much to the cartilage shifting.

“Children’s feet are soft and pliable because they are still developing, so the foot can easily become deformed if abnormal pressures are put on them,” says Greensboro podiatrist, Dr. Kathryn Egerton.

Bunion development in children is often aided by tight, narrow, elevated and small shoes, which can lead to pressure being applied to the toes, causing bunions to form. Children can also develop bunions due to genetics, loose joints, and having flat feet.

Fortunately there are non-surgical options available to treat bunions. They begin with managing the symptoms and addressing the structural issue. Treatments can include padding of the area, orthotics, changing activity, and avoiding ill-fitting footwear.

If surgery is the only option, your doctor will discuss with you which option is best for your child. The surgery is not done for cosmetic purposes, but rather for treatment due to pain and interference with physical activity.

A main concern among parents is that their child’s bones are still growing. The type of bunion surgery selected for your child will take the growth plate into account. In general, the surgery involves breaking the bone in one of two areas. Mild bunions are treated close to the big toe, with little risk of the growth plate becoming involved. Large bunions are treated with a bone cut at the bottom of the bone, closer to the growth plate, but far enough away to safely avoid it.

If your child has bunions, it’s best to address the issue sooner rather than later. The first step to bettering your child’s foot health and comfort is talking to your podiatrist. The podiatrists at the Triad Foot Center are experienced in treating pediatric and adolescent bunions.

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