Kids Can Get Bunions Too

Bunions aren't a foot problem unique to adults. Juvenile hallux valgus is a more common problem than many parents realize -- often occurring during a child's teenage years. You also may not know there's a good chance that if your child has bunions, he or she has inherited the condition. But if bunions run in your family, there are signs you can watch for and steps you can take to help keep your child's feet healthy.

What symptoms should you watch for?

Since the bones in the arch of the foot are normally fully formed by age 6, after that time, it's important to pay special attention to your child's feet so that you can spot any deformities, such as flatfeet that cause too much pronation. When the foot doesn't develop properly, a bump that appears at the big toe joint may be a sign of a bunion. Other symptoms may include pain that involves the:

  • Toe area that comes from the pressure of wearing tight shoes

  • Arch or ball of the foot when your child walks barefoot

  • Foot when your child runs or jumps

How are bunions diagnosed?

When improper foot mechanics cause a bunion to form, your child's doctor who may order x-rays to see if the bones in the foot are growing properly. If x-rays show a problem, the doctor may refer your child to a foot and ankle specialist for a full evaluation.

What treatment options are available?

Doctors generally recommend noninvasive treatment of juvenile bunions. Usually, surgery is a consideration only if a bunion hurts all the time and other treatments haven't helped. In fact, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends noninvasive bunion treatment instead of surgery unless a child suffers constant, severe pain.

Nonsurgical treatment usually involves:

  1. Wearing a well-fitted shoe. Make certain that a shoe is big enough to fit your child's foot. Shoes that are too small force the toes into an awkward position. Choose a shoe with a toe box that is wide and deep in design. Pass on narrow shoe styles with pointed toes. If your child has a wide foot, select a wider shoe. A shoe should also provide arch support and have either low or flat heels.

  2. Using custom orthotics. Custom shoe inserts are designed to better align the big toe joint and prevent the bunion from getting worse. Orthotics reduce excessive motion in the foot that can cause the toes to spread. They also help to redistribute your child's weight, taking pressure off the big toe joint when he or she is walking, running, or playing.

Surgery as a Final Option

Even if surgery becomes necessary to correct the deformity, it can't be performed until a child's growth plate in that area has closed and the bones have finished growing. Growth plates are areas near the ends of bones that haven't yet hardened. Until your child passes a certain stage of bone development, the growth plate remains open, and surgery can cause a problem with normal bone growth.

For more information about bunions, contact a local foot specialist such as Aboite Podiatry Associates PC.