The common bunion is a localized area of enlargement of the inner portion of the joint at the base of the big toe. The enlargement actually represents additional bone formation, often in combination with a misalignment of the big toe. The misalignment causes the big toe to move outward (medically termed hallux valgus deformity). The normal position of the big toe (straight forward) becomes outward directed toward the smaller toes. The enlarged joint at the base of the big toe (the first metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTP joint) can become inflamed with redness, tenderness, and pain. A small fluid-filled sac (bursa) adjacent to the joint can also become inflamed (bursitis), leading to additional swelling, redness, and pain. A less common bunion is located at the joint at the base of the smallest (fifth) toe. This bunion is sometimes referred to as a tailor’s bunion.
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.
SymptomsJust because you have a bunion does not mean you have to 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. 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.
Orthopaedic surgeons diagnose bunions on the basis of physical examination and weight bearing x-rays. Two angles are assessed, the intermetatarsal angle, that is between the first and second metatarsals (the bones that lead up to the base of the toes). If this angle exceeds 9? (the angle found in the healthy foot) it is abnormal and referred to as metatarsus primus varus. the hallux valgus angle, that is, the angle of the big toe as it drifts toward the small toe. An angle that exceeds 15? is considered to be a sign of pathology.
Non Surgical Treatment
Early treatment of bunions is centered on providing symptomatic relief. Switching to a shoe with a rounder, deeper toe box and made of a softer more pliable leather will often provide immediate relief. The use of pads and cushions to reduce the pressure over the bone can also be helpful for mild bunion deformities. Functional foot orthotics, by controlling abnormal pronation, reduces the deforming forces leading to bunions in the first place. These may help reduce pain in mild bunion deformities and slow the progression of the deformity. When these conservative measures fail to provided adequate relief, surgical correction is indicated.
Procedures are designed and chosen to correct a variety of pathologies that may be associated with the bunion. For instance, procedures may address some combination of removing the abnormal bony enlargement of the first metatarsal, realigning the first metatarsal bone relative to the adjacent metatarsal bone, straightening the great toe relative to the first metatarsal and adjacent toes, realigning the cartilagenous surfaces of the great toe joint, addressing arthritic changes associated with the great toe joint, repositioning the sesamoid bones beneath the first metatarsal bone, shortening, lengthening, raising, or lowering the first metatarsal bone, and correcting any abnormal bowing or misalignment within the great toe. Connecting two parallel long bones side by side by Syndesmosis Procedure. At present there are many different bunion surgeries for different effects. The age, health, lifestyle and activity level of the patient may also play a role in the choice of procedure. Traditional bunion surgery can be performed under local, spinal or general anesthetic. In the case of laser surgery, a narcotic analgesic is typically used. The trend has moved strongly toward using the less invasive local anesthesia over the years. A patient can expect a 6- to 8-week recovery period during which crutches are usually required for aid in mobility. An orthopedic cast is much less common today as newer, more stable procedures and better forms of fixation (stabilizing the bone with screws and other hardware) are used. Hardware may even include absorbable pins that perform their function and are then broken down by the body over the course of months.
The best way to prevent a bunion is to be proactive in the truest sense of the word. Go over your risk factors. If you know that you pronate or have any problem with the mechanics of your foot, talk with a podiatric physician about the correct types of shoes and/or orthoses for you. If you are not sure whether you have such a problem, the podiatric professional can analyze your foot, your stride and the wear pattern of your shoes, and give you an honest evaluation. Has anyone in your family complained of bunions? Does your job involve a lot of standing, walking or other stress on your feet or toes? Do you exercise? If so, what kind of shoes do you wear for sports? For work? For school? Do you ever feel pain in your toes, or have you noticed a pronounced or increased redness on your big toe, or on the other side of your foot, near your little toe? Make sure you let the doctor know. Keep track of whether any relatives have suffered from arthritis or other joint problems, as well as anything else that might be relevant to your podiatric health. If you?ve suffered sports injuries previously, let the doctor know about that, too. In other words, try to give your health care professional the most honest and thorough background you can, so that he or she can make the best evaluation possible.