Even though bunions are a common foot deformity, there are misconceptions about them. Many people may unnecessarily suffer the pain of bunions for years before seeking treatment. A bunion (also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus) is often described as a bump on the side of the big toe. But a bunion is more than that. The visible bump actually reflects changes in the bony framework of the front part of the foot. The big toe leans toward the second toe, rather than pointing straight ahead. This throws the bones out of alignment, producing the bunion?s ?bump.? Bunions are a progressive disorder. They begin with a leaning of the big toe, gradually changing the angle of the bones over the years and slowly producing the characteristic bump, which becomes increasingly prominent. Symptoms usually appear at later stages, although some people never have symptoms.
Wearing footwear that is too tight or causing the toes to be squeezed together are the most commonly blamed factor for the cause of bunions and hallux valgus and is undoubtedly the main contributing factor. This probably is the reason for the higher prevalence of bunions among women. However, studies of some indigenous populations that never wear footwear, show that they also get bunions but they are very uncommon. As they do get bunions, factors other than footwear must play a role in the cause, even though footwear is the main culprit for providing the pressure that causes the symptoms.
SymptomsPatients with bunions will often display pain over the prominent bump on the inside of their forefoot (the medial eminence?). However, they may also have pain under the ball of the foot (under the area near the base of the second toe). Symptoms can vary in severity from none at all to severe discomfort aggravated by standing and walking. There is no direct correlation between the size of the bunion and the patient?s symptoms. Some patients with severe bunion deformities have minimal symptoms, while patients with mild bunion deformities may have significant symptoms. Symptoms are often exacerbated by restrictive shoe wear, particularly shoes with a narrow toe box or an uncomfortable, stiff, restraining upper.
Bunions are readily apparent, you can see the prominence at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate your condition, the Podiatrist may arrange for x-rays to be taken to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred. Because bunions are progressive, they don't go away, and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike, some bunions progress more rapidly than others. There is no clear-cut way to predict how fast a bunion will get worse. The severity of the bunion and the symptoms you have will help determine what treatment is recommended for you.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many people with bunions are quite comfortable if they wear wide, well fitting shoes and give them time to adapt to the shape of their feet. A small pad over the bony prominence, which can be bought from a chemist or chiropodist, can take the pressure of the shoe off the bunion. High heels tend to squeeze the foot into the front of the shoe and should be avoided. It is often worthwhile seeing a chiropodist if these simple measures are not quite enough.
The main goal of surgery is to realign the big toe joint in order to relieve symptoms, correct deformity and restore function. Surgery to remove a bunion is known as a bunionectomy. There are many variations of this operation and the type of surgery performed will vary depending on factors such as the degree of deformity, the strength of the bones, the person's age and the surgeon?s preferred approach. Most surgery involves the removal of the bony outgrowth (exostosis) and the realignment of the bones of the joint. Soft tissue structures such as the ligaments and tendons may be repositioned and the bursa may be removed. The insertion of screws and pins may be required to stabilise the bones in their new, realigned position.