Bunion is the common term for a medical condition known as Hallux Valgus. Hallux Valgus is the tilting of the toe away from the mid-line of the body. It is usually characterized by a lump or bump that is red, swollen and/or painful on the inside of the foot in and around the big toe joint.
Bunions are sometimes genetic and consist of certain tendons, ligaments, and supportive structures of the first metatarsal that are positioned differently. This bio-mechanical anomaly may be caused by a variety of conditions intrinsic to the structure of the foot, such as flat feet, excessive flexibility of ligaments, abnormal bone structure, and certain neurological conditions. These factors are often considered genetic. Although some experts are convinced that poor-fitting footwear is the main cause of bunion formation, other sources concede that footwear only exacerbates the problem caused by the original genetic structure. Bunions are commonly associated with a deviated position of the big toe toward the second toe, and the deviation in the angle between the first and second metatarsal bones of the foot. The small sesamoid bones found beneath the first metatarsal (which help the flexor tendon bend the big toe downwards) may also become deviated over time as the first metatarsal bone drifts away from its normal position. Arthritis of the big toe joint, diminished and/or altered range of motion, and discomfort with pressure applied to the bump or with motion of the joint, may all accompany bunion development. Atop of the first metatarsal head either medially or dorso-medially, there can also arise a bursa that when inflamed (bursitis), can be the most painful aspect of the process.
The symptoms of hallux valgus usually center on the bunion. The bunion is painful. The severe hallux valgus deformity is also distressing to many and becomes a cosmetic problem. Finding appropriate shoe wear can become difficult, especially for women who want to be fashionable but have difficulty tolerating fashionable shoe wear. Finally, increasing deformity begins to displace the second toe upward and may create a situation where the second toe is constantly rubbing on the shoe.
The doctor considers a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position.
Non Surgical Treatment
Sometimes observation of the bunion is all that's needed. A periodic evaluation and x-ray examination can determine if your bunion deformity is advancing, thereby reducing your chance of irreversible damage to the joint. In many other cases however some type of treatment is needed. Early treatments are aimed at limiting the progression of the deformity and easing the pain of the bunion or an associated joint. Conservative treatments such as orthotics can achieve this but they won't reverse the deformity itself. These options include changes in shoe wear. Foot Mechanics Podiatrists are experts in shoe recommendation. Padding. Pads placed over the area of the bunion can help minimise pain, but will not stop the progression of the bunion. Activity modifications. Avoid activity that causes bunion pain, this could include standing for long periods of time. Medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen may help to relieve pain. Icing. Applying an ice pack several times a day helps reduce inflammation and pain. Orthotic devices. Orthotics are the mainstay of non-surgical treatment for bunions.
If these methods fail, then surgery may be suggested. Basically, bunion surgery is performed to improve function or to prevent pain from occurring. When surgery is delayed in a symptomatic foot, greater amounts of arthritis can develop and the more complicated surgery can become. Surgery is performed to improve alignment and function to the big toe joint. The large bump is removed and, sometimes, a cut is made into the bone, to move it to a more normal position. Screws, pins and wires can be used beneath the skin, to improve healing and results. Healing can range from 3-12 weeks, depending on the procedure.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing bunions is to wear shoes that fit properly. Shoes that are too tight or have high heels can force your toes together. Bunions are rare in populations that don?t wear shoes. Make sure your shoes are the correct size and that there's enough room to move your toes freely. It's best to avoid wearing shoes with high heels or pointed toes.