A bunion is an unnatural, bony hump that forms at the base of the big toe where it attaches to the foot. Often, the big toe deviates toward the other toes. When this occurs, the base of the big toe pushes outward on the first metatarsal bone, which is the bone directly behind the big toe, forming a bunion. If this happens on the little toe and fifth metatarsal, it's called a bunionette. Because a bunion occurs at a joint, where the toe bends in normal walking, your entire body weight rests on the bunion at each step. Bunions can be extremely painful. They're also vulnerable to excess pressure and friction from shoes and can lead to the development of calluses.
While there isn?t really one exact cause of bunions, podiatric physicians tend to agree that a bunion is formed when the normal mechanics of the foot are disrupted. This can happen in any number of ways. Abnormality in foot function or foot mechanics. In general, this means a pronated foot (one with an excessive rolling to the outside when the patient is walking, running or doing any kind of activity), a flat foot or low-arched foot. This is probably the most common cause, and it?s where the idea of heredity comes into play. Foot mechanics, and problems with them, tend to run in families. The good news is that there are orthoses and corrective shoes that can effectively alleviate these and other disturbances to foot mechanics, before they contribute to bunions. A podiatric physician can prescribe the best corrective footwear and shoe inserts for all activities, work, exercise, play, walking, shopping and more, based on an analysis of the patient?s foot and his or her lifestyle.
Bunions or hallux valgus tend to give pain predominantly from the metatarsal head on the inner border of the foot. The bunion tends to be painful mainly when in enclosed shoes and so is often more symptomatic in winter. As the front part of the foot splays and the great toe moves across towards the 2nd toe a bunion can also produce pain from the 2nd toe itself. The pain which a bunion produces on the 2nd toe is either due to direct rubbing between the great toe and the 2nd toe, a hammer toe type deformity produced due to crowding of the 2nd toe by the bunion and the 3rd toe.The hammer toe will either be painful from its top aspect where it rubs directly on shoe wear or its under surface in the area of the 2nd metatarsal head. This is made prominent and pushed to the sole of the foot by the 2nd toe rising upwards and driving the metatarsal head downwards.
Your family doctor or chiropodist /podiatrist can identify a bunion simply by examining your foot. During the exam, your big toe will be moved up and down to determine if your range of motion is limited. You will be examined for signs of redness or swelling and be questioned about your history of pain. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen. A X-ray of your foot may help identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Changing your footwear to roomy and comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes. Padding and taping applied by chiropodist/podiatrist to your foot can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain. Oral medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may help control the pain of a bunion. Cortisone injections. Over-the-counter arch supports can help distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Prescription foot orthotic devices to help stabilize the forefoot. Manual foot therapy to free up motion in arthritic foot joints.
Bunion Surgery Is Not Cosmetic Surgery. Bunions may not be pretty, but cosmetic deformity is not a good reason to perform surgery. There are too many potential complications to perform a bunion surgery simply for cosmetic reasons. Patients Must Have Realistic Expectations. Bunion surgery can be helpful at relieving pain, but patients should not expect to have "normal" feet after surgery. In one study, a leading researcher on foot problems such as bunions, found that 1/3 of his patients could not wear the type of shoe they desired prior to surgery. The Foot Width Change Is Small. Bunion surgery decreases the width of the forefoot by about 1/8 of an inch. That's not much! That is the reason why even after surgery, most patients will not be wearing slender shoes. Surgery can be an excellent treatment option for patients with problems from their bunions. That said, patients must understand this is a procedure that has potential complications and a lengthy rehabilitation. The patients who tend to be unsatisfied with bunion surgery are those patients who are having surgery done to allow them to have normal looking feet or allow them to wear slim shoes. If that sounds like your motivation, think long and hard about surgery. Surgery should be reserved for those patients who have significant pain, and are unable to correct the problem with adaptive footwear.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing bunions is to wear shoes that fit properly. Shoes that are too tight or have high heels can force your toes together. Bunions are rare in populations that don?t wear shoes. Make sure your shoes are the correct size and that there's enough room to move your toes freely. It's best to avoid wearing shoes with high heels or pointy toes.