A bunion is a combination of an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe as well as the big toe being angled towards the rest of the toes (this angulation is known as Hallux Valgus). A bunion can lead to other foot deformities and problems such as a hammer toe of the second toe, corns and calluses as well as ingrown toenails. So if the pain isn’t enough of a driving factor, the chance of developing these further complications should outline the importance and urgency of seeking treatment with a podiatrist.
A bunion is more common in women than men due to women wearing tighter fitting shoes. This condition can cause a variety of different soft tissue and bony complaints which may result in severe pain.
SymptomsThe main problem is usually the pressure of the shoe over the bony prominence, which causes discomfort or pain. Sometimes the skin over the lump becomes red, blistered or infected. The foot may become so broad that it is difficult to get wide enough shoes. The big toe sometimes tilts over so much that it rubs on the second toe, or pushes it up out of place so it presses on the shoe. Also, the big toe does not work as well with a bunion, and the other toes have to take more of the weight of the body as you walk. This can cause pain under the ball of the foot (“metatarsalgia”). Sometimes arthritis develops in the deformed joint, causing pain in the joint.
Before examining your foot, the doctor will ask you about the types of shoes you wear and how often you wear them. He or she also will ask if anyone else in your family has had bunions or if you have had any previous injury to the foot. In most cases, your doctor can diagnose a bunion just by examining your foot. During this exam, you will be asked to move your big toe up and down to see if you can move it as much as you should be able to. The doctor also will look for signs of redness and swelling and ask if the area is painful. Your doctor may want to order X-rays of the foot to check for other causes of pain, to determine whether there is significant arthritis and to see if the bones are aligned properly.
Non Surgical Treatment
A range of treatments is available for bunions, including painkillers, modifying footwear, orthotics, such as insoles, bunion pads and toe spacers. Surgery may be considered if a person’s symptoms are severe and do not respond to non-surgical treatment. The type of surgery used will depend on the level of deformity, the severity of any other associated symptoms, the patient’s age and any other associated medical conditions. Bunion surgery is usually effective, with up to 85% of cases resulting in improvement to symptoms. However, the deformity can sometimes return after bunion surgery.
Orthopaedic surgeons use many different surgical procedures to treat bunions. The common goal of these procedures is to realign the joint, relieve pain, and correct deformity. These procedures include repair of the Tendons and Ligaments Around the Big Toe. These tissues may be too tight on one side and too loose on the other, creating an imbalance that causes the big toe to drift toward the others. Often combined with an osteotomy, this procedure shortens the loose tissues and lengthens the tight ones. Removal of the damaged joint surfaces, followed by the insertion of screws, wires, or plates to hold the surfaces together until it heals. Used for patients with severe bunions, severe arthritis, and when other procedures have failed. Removal of the bump on the toe joint, used only for an enlargement of the bone with no drifting of the big toe. This procedure is seldom used because it rarely corrects the cause of the bunion. Removal of the damaged portion of the joint, used mainly for patients who are older, have had previous bunion surgery, or have severe arthritis. This creates a flexible “scar” joint. The surgical cutting and realignment of the joint. Your orthopaedic surgeon will choose the procedure best suited to your condition.
If you are genetically at risk, not a lot. But shoes that are too narrow, too tight (even ballet flats) or have very high heels that force your toes down into the pointed end are asking for trouble. Aim for a 1cm gap between your toes and the end of your shoes. This doesn?t mean wearing frumpy flatties, the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists recommends sticking to 4cm heels for everyday wear, and wearing different types of shoe to vary the position of your foot. Gladiator styles can help because the straps stop your foot pushing down into the point of the shoe, ditto Mary Janes (sorry but for beautiful feet they need to have a strap), and flat, wide-fitting brogues are a no-brainer. Alternatively, in summer you can wear flip-flops to keep the space between your big and second toe as wide as possible. If you have children it?s vital to make sure that their feet are measured for properly fitting shoes to nip any potential problems in the bud. Keeping your feet and lower legs supple and strong is important too, that?s how A-list celebs get away with wearing killer heels, they all work-out like crazy. Exercises like trying to widen the space between your big toe and the second one with your foot flat on the floor, a few times a day can help, as can calf stretches. If you are devoted to any exercise that involves high impact for your feet, it might be worth checking that your gait and shoes are correct with a specialist shop such as Runners Need, as poor styles can cause irreparable bunion-related problems that will consign your trainers to the back of the cupboard for ever.