A bunion is a very common foot deformity that develops over the first metatarsal phalageal joint of the big toe of the foot. The joint that joins the big toe to the foot is called the first MTP joint. When it becomes prominent and the big toe starts to become crooked this is known as a bunion. The term referring to deformity of the big toe as it becomes crooked is called Hallux Valgus. It is the bump itself that is known as the bunion. When it gets red and swollen over the bunion because it gets sore this is usually due to an inflamed soft tissue over the underlying bone.
Bunions have a number of causes, primarily genetics and bad choices in footwear. We inherit traits like flat feet, abnormal bone structure, and loose ligaments and tendons from our parents. When our feet are weakened by these traits and we stuff them into high heels or shoes which don?t support our feet correctly, the repeated stress on the front of the foot may contribute to the formation of a bunion. Other contributing factors are jobs that demand a lot of time standing, obesity, and sudden hormonal changes and weight gain, as in pregnancy. Unfortunately, bunions can lead to many other foot conditions as well. The joint behind the big toe carries much of your body weight and when the bunion makes it sore, you shift your weight onto other areas of the foot. That?s why we frequently see crossover toes, overlapping toes, hammer toes, corns, calluses, and ingrown toenails accompanying bunions. As pain in your foot increases, you?ll also reduce your activity, becoming more sedentary, which has its own quality-of-life issues.
Bunions may or may not cause symptoms. A frequent symptom is foot pain in the involved area when walking or wearing shoes; rest relieves this pain. A bunion causes enlargement of the base of the big toe and is usually associated with positioning of the big toe toward the smaller toes. Shoe pressure in this area can cause interment pain while the development of arthritis in more severe bunions can lead to chronic pain. Bunions that cause marked pain are often associated with swelling of the soft tissues, redness, and local tenderness. It is important to note that, in postpubertal men and postmenopausal women, pain at the base of the big toe can be caused by gout and gouty arthritis that is similar to the pain caused by bunions.
People with bunions may be concerned about the changing appearance of their feet, but it is usually the pain caused by the condition that leads them to consult their doctor. The doctor will evaluate any symptoms experienced and examine the affected foot for joint enlargement, tissue swelling and/or tenderness. They will also assess any risk factors for the condition and will ask about family history. An x-ray of the foot is usually recommended so that the alignment of big toe joint can be assessed. This would also allow any other conditions that may be affecting the joint, such as arthritis, to be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of hallux valgus nearly always starts with adapting shoe wear to fit the foot. In the early stages of hallux valgus, converting from a shoe with a pointed toe to a shoe with a wide forefoot (or toe box) may arrest the progression of the deformity. Since the pain that arises from the bunion is due to pressure from the shoe, treatment focuses on removing the pressure that the shoe exerts on the deformity. Wider shoes reduce the pressure on the bunion. Bunion pads may reduce pressure and rubbing from the shoe. There are also numerous devices, such as toe spacers, that attempt to splint the big toe and reverse the deforming forces.
The most simple procedure is reducing the bump, and while there will be a little pain and swelling afterwards and your mobility will be restricted, the recovery time is short (ie a few weeks), but it may not fix the underlying cause. More serious ops might involve lasers, robots, cutting bone in the foot and trying to reposition it, and/or inserting pins or wires. It can take months to recover fully and you might need a cast. Mike O?Neill recommends seeking an NHS consultant surgeon who specialises in bunion removal to ensure the best possible outcome. The type of anaesthetic, local or general, will depend on the procedure, but most are day cases and the surgery will take from less than 30 minutes to a couple of hours. Waiting times vary but from your first outpatient appointment to the op would be a minimum of a few months. Private treatment (preferably by an NHS consultant surgeon) is likely to cost thousands of pounds. A new less, invasive procedure called surgical correction of hallux valgus that makes a small incision in the bone has recently been approved for use in the NHS but there is still no conclusive evidence on how effective it is and it is not widely available.
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.