A bunion is generally considered as an enlargement of the joint (a lump of bone) at the base and side of the big toe (specifically, the first metatarsophalangeal joint). Bunions form when the toe moves out of place. As the big toe bends towards the others this lump becomes larger and the bunion can become painful, arthritis and stiffness can eventually develop. Hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus (HAV) is the name used for the deviated position of the big toe and a bunion refers to the enlargement of the joint, most of the time the two go together and can just be referred to as 'bunions'. The word bunion is from the Latin "bunion," meaning enlargement.
What causes bunions? This question is often answered by blaming shoes. But in fact, shoes only play a small role in developing bunions. Yes, shoes, especially high heels cause abnormal squeezing of your forefoot. This in turn to help promote a bunion. But if everyone who wore high heels shoes had a bunion, there would be a lot more then the 15% prevalence we see in the general population. As you can see from the flow chart, genetics plays the major role in development of bunion deformities. Genetics determines the way your foot functions. Are you flatfooted? Are your joints flexible or stiff? Do you have a high arch? Do you have tight muscles? These traits are determined by your genetic code. These characteristics then govern how your bones and joints move when you walk. As an example, if your joints are very flexible, this can cause an abnormal amount of instability in your forefoot when you walk. Over time, this abnormal motion will cause the a bunion to develop by allowing your first metatarsal to "drift" towards the mid-line of your body.
Red, thickened skin along the inside edge of the big toe. A bony bump at this site. Pain over the joint, which pressure from shoes makes worse. Big toe turned toward the other toes and may cross over the second toe.
Although bunions are usually obvious from the pain and unusual shape of the toe, further investigation is often advisable. Your doctor will usually send you for X-rays to determine the extent of the deformity. Blood tests may be advised to see if some type of arthritis could be causing the pain. Based on this evaluation, your doctor can determine whether you need orthopaedic shoes, medication, surgery or other treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are two ways to treat this pathological foot conditions, conservatively and surgically. Conservative treatment is the first line treatment which consists of splints and orthotic care to reduce the causative factors. Realigning the foot with the aid of an orthotic helps prevent further degeneration and/or reduce symptoms of HAV in any stage of its deformity. Along with orthotic care, patients may require debridement of corns and calluses produced due to extra forces produced on the foot. Orthotics will also help the function of the big toe joint as it allows it to bend in the correct position. Footwear advice is also essential in the conservative care of bunions, HAV, there may be a need to change footwear, so it is able to fit properly and be compliment with orthotics. Surgical correction of bunions, HAV is available, however should only be considered when conservative care has failed to reduce the onset of bunions, HAV. It is only considered if there is a clear sign that it will induce a better quality of life for the patient.
If nonsurgical treatment fails, you may want to consider surgery. Many studies have found that 85 to 90 percent of patients who undergo bunion surgery are satisfied with the results. Reasons that you may benefit from bunion surgery commonly include severe foot pain that limits your everyday activities, including walking and wearing reasonable shoes. You may find it hard to walk more than a few blocks (even in athletic shoes) without significant pain. Chronic big toe inflammation and swelling that doesn't improve with rest or medications. Toe deformity-a drifting in of your big toe toward the small toes. Toe stiffness-inability to bend and straighten your toe. Failure to obtain pain relief from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Their effectiveness in controlling toe pain varies greatly from person to person. Failure to substantially improve with other treatments such as a change in shoes and anti-inflammatory medication. As you explore bunion surgery, be aware that so-called "simple" or "minimal" surgical procedures are often inadequate "quick fixes" that can do more harm than good. And beware of unrealistic claims that surgery can give you a "perfect" foot. The goal of surgery is to relieve as much pain, and correct as much deformity as is realistically possible. It is not meant to be cosmetic.