Bunions are bony protrusions located at the base of the big toe that develop when the toe is slanted inward or overlaps the next toe. They can be very painful. Bunions form when the movement of the big toe influences the angle of the bones in the foot. The changes gradually develop into the characteristic bump, which over time becomes more and more noticeable.
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. This faulty structure causes the drifting of the great toe and the bone to become prominent on the side of the foot. The skin then gets pinches by this bony prominence and the shoe. Therefore in most cases bunions are not caused by tight shoes but are made more painful by tight shoes. End stage bunions may become painful both in and out of shoes.
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
A range of treatments is available for bunions, including painkillers, modifying footwear, orthotics, such as insoles, bunion pads and toe spacers. Surgery may be considered if a person's symptoms are severe and do not respond to non-surgical treatment. The type of surgery used will depend on the level of deformity, the severity of any other associated symptoms, the patient's age and any other associated medical conditions. Bunion surgery is usually effective, with up to 85% of cases resulting in improvement to symptoms. However, the deformity can sometimes return after bunion surgery.
The primary goal of bunion surgery is to relieve the pain associated with the deformity. This is accomplished by correcting the underlying abnormal metatarsal position by realigning it toward the second toe. Removing excessive bone formation on the bunion "bump", releasing the soft tissue tightness which is pulling the big toe towards the second toe. Tightening the soft tissues which are overly stretched on the bump side of the joint. Re-establish the correct alignment of the cartilage surfaces. Move the sesamoid bones into correct alignment. Realign the great toe. Bunion surgery procedures are based on many factors, including health, age and lifestyle of the patient. However, a critical factor in procedure choice is the grading of the bunion deformity.
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.