A bunion is a growth of skin at the joint of the big toe, often a result of enlarged tissue or misaligned bone. In some cases, the bunion may be so extreme that it pushes the big toe inward toward the second toe. Skin and tissue surrounding the joint may experience sensitivity to touch, tenderness and pain.
The main cause of bunions is excessive pressure being placed on the front of the foot, and is usually the result of wearing high-heeled shoes with pointed toes. A study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society found that 88 percent of women in the United States wear shoes that are too small and that 55 percent of them have bunions. Overall, bunions are nine times more common in women than men. In some cases, bunions are hereditary; they also may be caused by arthritis or polio.
SymptomsJust because you have a bunion does not mean you will necessarily have pain. There are some people with very severe bunions and no pain and people with mild bunions and a lot of pain. Symptoms for a bunion may include pain on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint, swelling on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint, appearance of a “bump” on the inside edge of your foot. The big toe rolling over to one side. Redness on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Numbness or burning in the big toe (hallux). Decreased motion at the big toe joint. Painful bursa (fluid-filled sac) on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Pain while wearing shoes – especially shoes too narrow or with high heels. Joint pain during activities. Other conditions which may appear with bunions include Corns in between the big toe and second toe. Callous formation on the side or bottom of the big toe or big toe joint. Callous under the second toe joint. Pain in the second toe joint.
Diagnosis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor. This will usually include a discussion about shoe wear and the importance of shoes in the development and treatment of the condition. X-rays will probably be suggested. This allows your doctor to measure several important angles made by the bones of the feet to help determine the appropriate treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Apply special pads and dressings to protect the bunion from shoe pressure. Inject steroid and local anesthetic around the bunion to reduce inflammation. This is especially useful if there is an associated bursitis. Recommend commercially available or custom made shoes. Prescribe functional orthotics to correct faulty foot function, and help prevent worsening of the deformity. Recommend bunion surgery to correct the deformity.
If all nonsurgical measures fail to control the symptoms, then surgery may be suggested to treat the hallux valgus condition. Well over 100 surgical procedures exist to treat hallux valgus. The basic considerations in performing any surgical procedure for hallux valgus are to remove the bunion, to realign the bones that make up the big toe, to balance the muscles around the joint so the deformity does not return.
There are some steps that may help prevent, or at least slow, the progression of bunions. Avoid shoes with a narrow toe box. If your foot flattens excessively, make sure you wear supportive shoes, and if necessary, get custom orthotics from your podiatrist. See your podiatrist at the first signs or symptoms of a bunion deformity, as early treatment may stop or slow its progression.