Bunions are common but they can be misdiagnosed. We sometimes assume that any lump at the bottom of the big toe is a bunion. But as the Latin name (hallux valgus) suggests, the hallmark of a bunion is what happens to the toe itself (the hallux) rather than to the joint at its base. In bunions, the toe veers off in a valgus direction, that is, away from the midline. An outcrop of extra bone, or osteophyte, develops as the body tries to protect the exposed surface of the warped first metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP); a fluid-filled sac, or bursa, may also form, which often becomes inflamed. Foot experts are still not entirely agreed about what causes bunions. Genetics and lax ligaments are both implicated; the role of footwear is less clear. All bunion conversations seem to involve someone stating that barefoot tribes people don?t get bunions. This is not true.
Improper footwear. Podiatric physicians have long believed that narrow, poor-fitting shoes with a tight toe box tend to compress the end of the foot, leading to abnormal motion of the foot and pressure over the MTP joint. High-heeled shoes tend to add even more pressure to the toes, as the foot slides downward. Over time, continued pressure will squeeze the toes together, encouraging the deformity. Occupational hazards. Individuals whose jobs place undue stress on their feet are among those who complain of bunions. Ballet dancers, in particular, put great demands on their toes, and thus are often subject to bunions, however, they are not alone. Many professionals whose jobs require a great deal of standing or walking (teachers, police officers, doctors and nurses, etc.) and/or who are required to wear a particular type of shoe or boot as part of a uniform, also are at risk. Athletes such as runners or walkers, who utilize the wrong footwear, may also develop bunions.
SymptomsThe major symptom of bunions is a hard bump on the outside edge of the foot or at the base of the big toe. Redness, pain and swelling surrounding or at the MTP joint can also occur.
Your family doctor or chiropodist /podiatrist can identify a bunion simply by examining your foot. During the exam, your big toe will be moved up and down to determine if your range of motion is limited. You will be examined for signs of redness or swelling and be questioned about your history of pain. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen. A X-ray of your foot may help identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Detecting and treating bunions can relieve many of the symptoms associated with this condition. Doctors often consider whether the condition requires non-surgical or surgical treatment. The decision is based on the severity of the symptoms. Because bunions often get worse over time, early detection and proper treatment are very important. Some non-surgical methods to reduce the symptoms related to bunions include cushioning the area with padding or tape, taking medication to relieve pain and inflammation, using physiotherapy to reduce pain and related symptoms (e.g., ultrasound, whirlpool baths, joint mobilization), wearing custom orthotics to provide better movement and stability of the foot, wearing well-fitted comfortable shoes that are not too tight (if your shoes used to fit but now are too tight around the bunion area, you may be able to have them stretched in this area), using a special splint at night to decrease the amount the toe angles towards the other toes. When non-surgical methods do not provide relief, surgery may be needed. During surgery, the doctor will remove the tissue or bone in the area of the bunion and attempt to straighten the big toe, and may join the bones of the affected joint.
Conservative bunion treatment methods help to reduce the symptoms but they cannot undo changes in the bone to fully correct the condition. If the pain becomes severe and it starts to affect your daily life, then foot bunion surgery may be the best option to correct a hallux abducto valgus. There are a number of different surgical options, depending on the severity of the bony deformity. The two most common types of surgery are Osteotomy. This is the most common type pf surgery and involves removing part of the bony lump and realigning the toes. It is also known as a bunionectomy or exostectomy. The ligaments around the big toe may also need realigning and this will be done at the same time if necessary. Fusion.This is where the joint at the base of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint) is fused together, known as an arthrodesis. This is only indicated in severe cases or if other treatments have failed as it severely limits the movement of the big toe.