A bunion (also called Hallux Valgus) is a painful swelling caused by deformity of the big toe. As this swelling is caused by a bone it can be very unforgiving in shoes, which can rub on it causing pain, particularly formal foot shoes or high heels. Arthritis, or wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes over a period of many years, may increase the risk of bunions. However, they can have other causes. Bunions are more common in women and sometimes run in families.
Women traditionally have a higher rate of bunions, which is to be expected, since it is they who have traditionally worn shoes with high heels, a narrow toe box, or whatever fashion dictates from year to year. However, men can suffer from bunions as well, as can anyone for whom the right (or wrong) conditions exist, poor foot mechanics, improper footwear, occupational hazards, health and genetic predisposition. Finally, bunions have long been a condition associated with the elderly, and although they often appear in conjunction with inflammatory joint diseases such as arthritis (which is often associated with age), they can strike at any point in life, including adolescence.
SymptomsThe dominant symptom of a bunion is a big bulging bump on the inside of the base of the big toe. Other symptoms include swelling, soreness and redness around the big toe joint, a tough callus at the bottom of the big toe and persistent or intermittent pain.
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
Initial treatment of bunions may include wearing comfortable, well-fitting footwear (particularly shoes that conform to the shape of the foot and do not cause pressure areas) or the use of splints and orthotics (special shoe inserts shaped to your feet) to reposition the big toe. For bunions caused by arthritis, medications may help reduce pain and swelling. If nonsurgical treatment fails, your doctor may suggest surgery, which resolves the problem in nearly all persons. The goal of surgery is to relieve pain and correct as much deformity as possible. The surgery is not cosmetic and is not meant to improve the appearance of the foot. Other related procedures that may be used to help diagnose foot disorders include X-rays of the bone and foot.
There are a number of different surgical procedures used to treat bunions. The type of surgery recommended for you will depend on the severity of the deformity. Your surgeon may use pins, wires or screws to hold the bones in place while they heal. Depending on the type of surgery you have, these may be left in your foot or removed later on. Some of the surgical procedures for bunions are described below. Osteotomy is the most commonly used and proven type of bunion surgery. Although there are many different types of osteotomy, they generally involve cutting and removing part of the bone in your toe. During the procedure, your surgeon will remove the bony lump and realign the bones inside your big toe. They'll also move your toe joint back in line, which may involve removing other pieces of bone, possibly from the neighbouring toes. A procedure called distal soft tissue realignment may be combined with an osteotomy. This involves altering the tissue in your foot to help correct the deformity and improve the stability and appearance of the foot.