Lifewatch: Bunions

NEW YORK -- Bunions are painful bony protrusions that affect an estimated 5.2 million people.

From yoga toes to bunion splints, slings and pads claim they can fix or, in some cases, shrink a bunion, but Manhattan podiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Sutera says that's not the case.

"Nothing will cure bunions or remove bunions other than surgery."

This is something Evelyn Melendez knows all too well.

"She had a bunion deformity and what a bunion is, it's a boney prominence that forms. And you can see it on the instep by the big toe joint," said Dr. Sutera.

Not only was Melendez embarrassed by how it looked, she was in pain.

"Regardless of the type of shoe that I wore, whether it was a sneaker, or a heel or a flat, it got to a point where it was just the pain for the most part, just hurting. And you can just, by looking at the foot, see the angle that it just wasn't right," said Melendez.

She tried to relieve the pain.

"Over-the-counter pads, perhaps some insoles, wearing wide shoes."

"It can help to decrease some of the redness, the swelling, and the pain that's associated with bunions so that you may be able to still function in a shoe, without necessarily having surgery right away," said Dr. Sutera.

After a year, Melendez couldn't take it anymore.  Three months ago she had a bunionectomy.  The 45-minute, outpatient procedure was performed under a local anesthesia.

"What we did was remove the boney prominence, and then we made another cut at the neck of the bone and shifted it over so that we closed that angular deformity. And then we used two screws actually to fix it," said Dr. Sutera.

About six weeks later Melendez was back on her feet walking one to two miles a day for her commute.

"Everyone kept telling me how much pain I was going to be in, how awful, and that just to prepare myself. But to be honest, I wasn't in a whole lot of pain. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I hope to actually in a year or so, for my other foot," said Melendez.

Bunions are hereditary but there are other contributing factors, including the shoes you wear.  Dr. Sutera says high heels are a big culprit.  Regardless of the type of shoe you wear, it's important to make sure it fits well to prevent bunions and other foot problems.

Reported by Kristy Ondo