A bunion, also known as hallux valgus, is a painful deformity that develops at the base of the big toe. Bunions are caused when the big toe pushes and bends inward towards the other toes. This displaces the bones of the joint, causing it to protrude in a way that looks like a large growth. Bunions develop due to a variety of factors. Some people inherit feet that are more susceptible due to their shape and structure, having flat feet for instance. But bunions can be made worse by the wrong shoe, or by carrying extra weight or prolonged periods of standing or walking.
Bunions are the byproduct of unnatural forces and motion being applied to the joints and tendons of your foot over a prolonged period of time. They can also be caused by traumas to the foot as well as congenital deformities. Occupations or athletic activities that place abnormal stress on your feet can also lead to the formation of bunions. Bunions have a tendency to run in families, but it?s not the bunion itself that is hereditary. It?s the the foot type which *causes* the bunion that is hereditary. Also, wearing shoes such as high heels that do not distribute your body weight evenly can lead to bunions, which explains why so many women suffer from bunions.
The symptoms of hallux valgus usually center on the bunion. The bunion is painful. The severe hallux valgus deformity is also distressing to many and becomes a cosmetic problem. Finding appropriate shoe wear can become difficult, especially for women who want to be fashionable but have difficulty tolerating fashionable shoe wear. Finally, increasing deformity begins to displace the second toe upward and may create a situation where the second toe is constantly rubbing on the shoe.
When an x-ray of a bunion is taken, there is usually angulation between the first metatarsal bone and the bones of the big toe. There may also be angulation between the first and second metatarsal bones. These angular irregularities are the essence of most bunions. In general, surgery for bunions aims to correct such angular deformities.
Non Surgical Treatment
You can try over-the-counter remedies like pads to stop them rubbing, or take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if they play up. Devices that fit into your shoe, called orthotics, or splints that you wear at night, can slow the progression of bunions. If these don't help and the bunion is causing a painful and substantial deformity that?s seriously limiting your footwear, your GP will probably refer you to see a podiatrist, medical professionals who specialise in feet. They can give further advice about non-invasive treatments and also refer you for an operation, either with a podiatric or orthopaedic (bone) surgeon, ultimately the only thing that can correct the gnarly blighters. You can visit a podiatrist privately, which will cost anything from ?140-?200. But Mike O?Neill, spokesperson for the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists, suggest always going via your GP, who will know the best qualified. Such is the complexity of the bone structure of the foot, there are more than 130 different surgical procedures for bunions. One person?s op may be very different from another?s, so be wary of sounding out a friend about theirs.
In some very mild cases of bunion formation, surgery may only be required to remove the bump that makes up the bunion. This operation, called a bunionectomy, is performed through a small incision on the side of the foot immediately over the area of the bunion. Once the skin is opened the bump is removed using a special surgical saw or chisel. The bone is smoothed of all rough edges and the skin incision is closed with small stitches. It is more likely that realignment of the big toe will also be necessary. The major decision that must be made is whether or not the metatarsal bone will need to be cut and realigned as well. The angle made between the first metatarsal and the second metatarsal is used to make this decision. The normal angle is around nine or ten degrees. If the angle is 13 degrees or more, the metatarsal will probably need to be cut and realigned.
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.