Bunions (sometimes referred to as Hallux abducto valgus) are enlargements of the inner portion of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of your big toe. More commonly, they are described as a bump on the side of the big toe. The foot bunion is the result of changes that occur in the framework of the bones at the front of your foot. Instead of pointing straight ahead, your big toe begins to lean into your second toe, throwing the bones out of alignment. Bunions are progressive, meaning you will not just wake up one day and find a visible bump (unless it was caused by a bug bite or something of that nature). Bunions are generally attributed to genetics and improper footwear. It may take years for a bunion to fully develop and begin to show symptoms. Some people may never experience symptoms at all. Bunions may begin to form during one?s teenage years, but they usually occur in people aged 20-30. Women are three times more likely than men to have bunions.
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.
Signs and symptoms of a bunion include the base of the big toe is swollen and sticks out. The big toe is often bent towards the other toes, and sometimes the second toe is pushed to overlap the third toe. Skin around the big toe joint is red and sore. Thickened skin at the base of the big toe. Pain in the big toe or foot. Wearing shoes is painful. Pain or difficulty when walking.
The doctor considers a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position.
Non Surgical Treatment
Long-term treatment of bunions must be directed towards re-balancing the foot, so that we no longer walk with our weight forced on to the inner border of the foot. This is accomplished by controlling and reducing pronation with the use of a high quality arch support or custom made orthotics. These devices comfortably re-balance the feet and overcome pronation. This reduces the abnormal weight forces on the big toe and its metatarsal head, allowing the feet to function normally. As a result, the deformity should not worsen, and the pain should gradually subside. If the foot is not re-balanced, the deformity and pain will become worse.
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.