A bunion is a painful deformity of the joint where the bones of the foot and the big toe meet. The enlargement of the bone and tissue around this joint is known as a bunion or hallux valgus. Symptoms of a bunion include a swollen bursal sac, a bony deformity on the side of the great toe joint, tender and swollen tissues surrounding the deformity, and displacement of the big toe, which may turn inward.
Essentially, bunions are caused by a disruption of the normal interworking of the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons that comprise your feet, often from wearing shoes that squeeze the toes or place too much weight-bearing stress on them. However, it should be pointed out that other causes or factors in the development of bunions can include flat feet or low arches in the feet, some forms of arthritis, problems with foot mechanics, foot injuries and neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy. Arthritis in the MTP joint, for example, can degrade the cartilage that protects it, and other problems may cause ligaments to become loose. Pronation, walking in a way that your foot rolls inwards, increases your risk for developing bunions.
Bunions may or may not cause symptoms. A frequent symptom is foot pain in the involved area when walking or wearing shoes that is relieved by resting. A bunion causes enlargement of the base of the big toe and is usually associated with positioning of the big toe toward the smaller toes. This leads to intermittent or chronic pain at the base of the big toe. Bunions that cause marked pain are often associated with swelling of the soft tissues, redness, and local tenderness. It is important to note that, in post-pubertal men and post-menopausal women, pain at the base of the big toe can be caused by gout and gouty arthritis that is similar to the pain caused by bunions.
Generally, observation is adequate to diagnose a bunion, as the bump is obvious on the side of the foot or base of the big toe. However, your physician may order X-rays that will show the extent of the deformity of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
Technically, you can only ?fix a bunion? with surgery, but many patients don't need it to get symptom relief. In its early stages, the progression of the bunion deformity can often be dramatically slowed. Removing pressure from the bunion area and balancing the tendon and ligament alignment are the primary goals of mild bunion treatment. For example, it is important to wear shoes that have sufficient room in the toe area to accommodate the bunion - that means softer leather shoes to mold to the deformity and platform type heels for better foot and arch support. Your doctor may also advise the use of pads to protect the bunion from shoe pressure. Customized shoe inserts, called orthotics are made exclusively for your foot and are often used to correct the alignment of the arch and big toe joint. In some cases, physicians also use anti-inflammatory creams around the bunion.
The aim of surgery is to correct the cause of the bunion and prevent it growing back. Which type of surgery your podiatric surgeon recommends will depend on the severity of your bunion. Because there are risks and complications with any type of surgery, it?s not usually advised unless your bunions are causing pain, or if it is starting to deform your other toes.