What most people call a bunion is actually known as "Hallux valgus". Hallux valgus refers to the condition in which the big toe is angled excessively towards the second toe and a bunion is a symptom of the deformity. In a normal foot, the big toe and the long bone that leads up to it (the first metatarsal) are in a straight line. However, Hallux valgus occurs when the long foot bone veers towards your other foot and your big toes drifts towards your second toe. A bunion actually refers to the bony prominence on the side of the big toe. This can also form a large sac of fluid, known as a bursa, which can then become inflamed and sore.
There are many factors which can contribute to the development of a bunion. The common causes are genetic factors, poor foot mechanics, high-heeled or narrow footwear and trauma to the toe. It is believed that constant stress on the joint of the big toe causes mild displacement of the bones and the joint, along with thickening of the tissues and a change in the pull of the muscles. This can result in a degree of arthritis of the joint, and over time, further displacement of the toe. This may lead to pain, difficultly with fitting shoes and corns/calloused lesions due to excess pressure on the smaller digits.
Bunions are readily apparent, you can see the prominence at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate your condition, the Podiatrist may take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred. Because bunions are progressive, they don't go away, and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike, some bunions progress more rapidly than others. There is no clear-cut way to predict how fast a bunion will get worse. The severity of the bunion and the symptoms you have will help determine what treatment is recommended for you.
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
The treatment method your doctor chooses for you will be based on the severity of the bunion. Treatment can be simple and non-surgical or it can be complex, surgical, and costly. A bunion is permanent unless surgery is performed to remove it, but self-care can help to improve your symptoms. If you suspect that a bunion is developing, you should seek medical attention immediately. Here are the most common conservative treatment options. Changing your shoes. Adding custom orthotics to your shoes. Medication such as Tylenol for pain relief. Padding and taping to put your foot in its normal position. Applying ice or cold compresses to reduce swelling and pain. Keeping pressure off your affected toe, especially if there is swelling, redness, and pain. Before bed, separate the affected toe from the others with a foam-rubber pad and leave it there while you sleep.
To end persistent pain, your doctor may recommend a type of foot surgery called a bunionectomy to remove the bunion and perhaps to reshape the first toe joint. During the operation, the swollen tissue will be removed, the big toe will be straightened if necessary, and the bones of the affected joint may be reshaped or permanently joined. The goal of the surgery is to correct the cause of the bunion and to prevent the bunion from growing back. After surgery, pain medication will be prescribed, and you will be told when you can start moving your toes and ankle.
Wear insoles and well-fitting shoes to help slow down the progression of bunions and alleviate discomfort. Cushioning can also help alleviate discomfort. Consider wearing shoes with a wide toe box so they don't crowd your toes. Children can also develop bunions and should wear properly fitting shoes as their feet are still developing.