A bunion, (medical term: hallux abductovalgus) is a condition resulting in boney prominence at the inside of the foot at the big toe joint. A bunion occurs when the big toe begins to deviate toward the second toe. The biggest misconception is that bunions occur from an overgrowth of bone. While that may be true in very few people, the bunion really represents a dislocation of the big toe joint as it bulges against the skin.
Bunions tend to run in families, although it is the faulty foot mechanics that lead to bunions that are inherited, not the bunions themselves. Some authorities, in fact, suggest that the most significant factor in bunion formation is the poor foot mechanics passed down through families. However, the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society estimates that women have bunions nine times more often than men, that 88 percent of women in the United States wear shoes that are too small, and that 55 percent of women have bunions. Again, this reflects the wearing of shoes with tight, pointed toes, or with high heels that shift all of your body's weight onto your toes and also jam your toes into your shoes' toe boxes. It should be noted that it generally takes years of continued stress on the toes for bunions to develop.
Most patients complain of pain directly on the bunion area, within the big toe joint, and/or on the bottom of the foot. The bunion may become irritated, red, warm, swollen and/or callused. The pain may be dull and mild or severe and sharp. The size of the bunion doesn?t necessarily result in more pain. Pain is often made worse by shoes, especially shoes that crowd the toes. While some bunions may result in significant pain, other bunions may not be painful at all.
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
Treatment options vary with the type and severity of each bunion, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important in avoiding surgery. The primary goal of most early treatment options is to relieve pressure on the bunion and halt the progression of the joint deformity. A podiatrist may recommend these treatments. Padding and Taping, Often the first step in a treatment plan, padding the bunion minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping helps keep the foot in a normal position, thus reducing stress and pain. Medication, Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections are often prescribed to ease the acute pain and inflammation caused by joint deformities. Physical Therapy, Often used to provide relief of the inflammation and bunion pain. Ultrasound therapy is a popular technique for treating bunions and their associated soft tissue involvement. Orthotics, Shoe inserts may be useful in controlling foot function and may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.
If these methods fail, then surgery may be suggested. Basically, bunion surgery is performed to improve function or to prevent pain from occurring. When surgery is delayed in a symptomatic foot, greater amounts of arthritis can develop and the more complicated surgery can become. Surgery is performed to improve alignment and function to the big toe joint. The large bump is removed and, sometimes, a cut is made into the bone, to move it to a more normal position. Screws, pins and wires can be used beneath the skin, to improve healing and results. Healing can range from 3-12 weeks, depending on the procedure.