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.
Shoes. The primary cause of bunions is the long term use of shoes, particularly tight-fitting shoes with pointed toes, or high heeled shoes. A study that examined people in cultures that do not wear shoes found no cases of bunions. Genetic. People who have misaligned toes or feet, are flatfooted with feet that roll inwards (over pronation), excessive flexibility of ligaments, abnormal bone structure, or have mechanical instability in the big toe joint are more susceptible to bunions. This is especially common when bunions occur in children or young adults. Injuries or other trauma (sprains, fractures or nerve injuries), neuromuscular disorders (polio or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease), or limb-length discrepancies (one leg longer than the other). Repetitive stresses to the foot. Bunions are common in ballet dancers and in a few sports. Arthritis.
SymptomsThe symptoms of a bunion include pain, swelling, and redness over the bony bump on the inside of the foot. It can become painful to walk, because the big toe bends every time you take a step. Shoes can become painful to wear, especially ones that are even a little bit tight. Usually, bunions become more painful as they get larger. In severe cases, you can develop arthritis in the big toe as a result of the bunion. However, a bunion that is not painful does not need surgical treatment, even a large one.
A doctor can very often diagnose a bunion by looking at it. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
Some bunions can be treated without surgery. If you have a bunion, wear shoes that are roomy enough so that they won?t put pressure on it. You can choose to have your shoes stretched out professionally or try cushioning the painful area with protective pads. Orthotics have been shown to help prevent progression of bunions. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Applying an ice pack several times a day can also help reduce inflammation and pain. If your bunion progresses to a point where you have difficulty walking or experience pain even with accommodative shoes, surgery may be necessary.
Bunion surgery can be performed under local or general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes between half an hour to an hour. There are several types of bunionectomies. Some involve removal and realignment of the bones in your foot. Mild bunion problems can sometimes be resolved using soft tissue release or tightening. For some very severe cases bones of the big toe are fused or the bunion is cut out along with some of the bone at the base of the toe. Be sure and discuss which type of operation you will have with your surgeon. With any type of bunionectomy your surgeon will make one or more incisions (cuts) near your big toe. They will use instruments to trim the bones and remove the bunion. Wire, screws or plates may also be used to hold the new joint in place.