A bunion (hallux valgus) is an enlargement of the bone or tissue around a joint at the base of the big toe or at the base of the little toe (in which case it is called a "bunionette" or "tailor's bunion"). Bunions often occur when the joint is stressed over a prolonged period. Ninety percent of bunions occur in women, primarily because women may be more likely to wear tight, pointed, and confining shoes. Bunions may be inherited as a family trait. Bunions may also result from arthritis, which often affects the big toe joint.
Perhaps the most frequent cause of bunion development is the wearing of shoes with tight, pointed toes, or with high heels that shift all of your body's weight onto your toes and also jam your toes into your shoes' toe boxes. It's estimated that more than 50 percent of women have bunions caused by high-heel shoes, and that nine out of 10 people who develop bunions are women. Bunions can also develop on your little toes, in which case they are called bunionettes or tailor's bunions.
The most obvious symptoms of a bunion are. Pain in the area of the MTP joint, the joint where your big toe connects to your foot. Bending of the big toe in towards the other toes. An enlarged bump of bone or tissue at the MTP joint. Each symptom can range in degree from small to severe. Sometimes the pain can be sufficient to make it difficult to walk in normal shoes. Other symptoms may include. Swelling and inflammation of the skin around the MTP joint. Thickening of the skin in the area of the joint. Restricted motion in your big toe. Pressure from the inward bending of your big toe can affect your other toes, leading to corns on your smaller toes. Ingrown toenails on the smaller toes. Development of hammertoes in the other toes. Calluses on the bottom of your foot. If you have any of these symptoms, especially pain, displacement of your big toe or development of a bulge, you should consider consulting your physician. Even if you're not significantly bothered by some of these symptoms, bunions tend to continue getting bigger and more serious over time and should be taken care of before they do so.
Your doctor will ask questions about your past health and carefully examine your toe and joint. Some of the questions might be: When did the bunions start? What activities or shoes make your bunions worse? Do any other joints hurt? The doctor will examine your toe and joint and check their range of motion. This is done while you are sitting and while you are standing so that the doctor can see the toe and joint at rest and while bearing weight. X-rays are often used to check for bone problems or to rule out other causes of pain and swelling. Other tests, such as blood tests or arthrocentesis (removal of fluid from a joint for testing), are sometimes done to check for other problems that can cause joint pain and swelling. These problems might include gout , rheumatoid arthritis , or joint infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions are progressive problems, meaning they tend to get worse over time. Sometimes severe-looking bunions don't hurt much, and sometimes relatively modest-looking bunions hurt a great deal. Thus, treatment varies depending upon a patient's symptoms. You can often improve the discomfort of bump pain by a change to more proper shoes. Alternatively, alterations to existing shoes may improve pain associated with bunions. Accommodative padding, shields and various over-the-counter and custom-made orthopaedic appliances can also alleviate bunion pain. Anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, physiotherapy, massage, stretching, acupuncture and other conservative treatment options may be recommended by your podiatric physician to calm down an acutely painful bunion. Long term, orthoses (orthotics) can address many of the mechanical causes of a bunion. Thus, while orthoses don't actually correct a bunion deformity, if properly designed and made, they can slow the progression of bunions. They can also be made to redistribute weight away from pain in the ball of the foot, which often accompanies bunion development. Padding, latex moulds and other accommodative devices may also be effective. While they don't correct the misalignment in the bones, they may alleviate pain. Often, though, when conservative measures fail to alleviate pain associated with the bunion, when you start to limit the types of activities you perform, when it's difficult to find comfortable shoes, and when arthritis changes how you walk, surgery may be the best alternative.
If other treatments don?t help and your bunion is very painful, you may be referred to an orthopaedic or a podiatric surgeon for assessment. There are over 130 different operations that can be carried out to treat bunions. The simplest operations are called bunionectomies. The majority of the operations aim to correct the alignment of your big toe. This will narrow your foot and straighten out your big toe joint as much as possible. An operation won?t return your foot back to normal, but most people find that surgery reduces their symptoms and improves the shape of their foot. The operation your surgeon will advise you to have will depend on how severe your bunion is and whether or not you have arthritis.
If the diagnosis is made early on, such as in preadolescence, bunion development can be slowed and in some cases arrested with the proper supportive shoe gear and custom functional shoe inserts (orthotics). Avoidance of certain athletic activities with improper shoe fit and toe pressure can prevent the symptoms that occur with bunions.