A bunion is a bony lump on the side of your foot, which develops when your big toe starts to angle towards your second toe. The bunion will eventually cause you discomfort and pain. The skin over the lump can become red, blistered or infected. A fluid-filled space called a bursa may also develop under your skin in this area and this can be painful if it becomes inflamed. This is called bursitis. The deformity of your big toe combined with a bunion is sometimes referred to as hallux valgus.
Bunions form when the normal balance of forces exerted on the joints and tendons of your feet are disrupted. This can lead to instability in the big toe joint - also known as the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, causing a deformity. Bunions develop over years of abnormal motion and pressure on your big toe joint. They often result from a combination of your inherited foot type, faulty foot mechanics that affect the way you walk and shoes that fit improperly. Other causes of bunions include foot injuries. Deformities present at birth (congenital). Neuromuscular disorders, such as cerebral palsy or post- polio syndrome (post-poliomyelitis). Bunions may be associated with various forms of arthritis, including inflammatory or degenerative, causing the protective cartilage that covers your big toe joint to deteriorate. An occupation that puts extra stress on your feet also can be a cause. Waiters, factory workers, dancers and athletes often are more prone to developing bunions.
SymptomsThe main problem is usually the pressure of the shoe over the bony prominence, which causes discomfort or pain. Sometimes the skin over the lump becomes red, blistered or infected. The foot may become so broad that it is difficult to get wide enough shoes. The big toe sometimes tilts over so much that it rubs on the second toe, or pushes it up out of place so it presses on the shoe. Also, the big toe does not work as well with a bunion, and the other toes have to take more of the weight of the body as you walk. This can cause pain under the ball of the foot ("metatarsalgia"). Sometimes arthritis develops in the deformed joint, causing pain in the 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
Non-surgical treatments for bunions may include wearing shoes that fit and that have adequate toe room. Stretching shoes professionally to make them larger. Putting bunion pads over the bunion to cushion the pain. Avoiding activities that cause pain, such as being on your feet for long periods of time. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers when necessary, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen. Using ice to provide relief from inflammation and pain. Using custom-made orthotic devices.
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.