A bunion is generally considered as an enlargement of the joint (a lump of bone) at the base and side of the big toe (specifically, the first metatarsophalangeal joint). Bunions form when the toe moves out of place. As the big toe bends towards the others this lump becomes larger and the bunion can become painful, arthritis and stiffness can eventually develop. Hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus (HAV) is the name used for the deviated position of the big toe and a bunion refers to the enlargement of the joint, most of the time the two go together and can just be referred to as 'bunions'. The word bunion is from the Latin "bunion," meaning enlargement.
A true bunion or hallux valgus results from a drifting inwards of the big toe metatarsal from its normal position closer to the second metatarsal. The bunion is the head of this first metatarsal which produces the prominence on the inner side of the now wider foot. Tendons run circumferentially around the metatarsal and toe. They both move and stabilise the toe under normal circumstances. In a bunion or hallux valgus, with the shift/displacement of the first metatarsal these tendons no longer lie in the correct axis and in fact act as a deforming force, contributing to the bunion condition.
Just because you have a bunion does not mean you have to have pain. There are some people with very severe bunions and no pain and people with mild bunions and a lot of pain. Symptoms for a bunion may include pain on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Swelling on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Redness on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Numbness or burning in the big toe (hallux). Decreased motion at the big toe joint. Painful bursa (fluid-filled sac) on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Pain while wearing shoes, especially shoes too narrow or with high heels. Joint pain during activities. Other conditions which may appear with bunions include corns in between the big toe and second toe. Callous formation on the side or bottom of the big toe or big toe joint. Callous under the second toe joint. Pain in the second toe joint.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Some bunions can be treated without surgery. If you have a bunion, wear shoes that are roomy enough so that they won?t put pressure on it. You can choose to have your shoes stretched out professionally or try cushioning the painful area with protective pads. Orthotics have been shown to help prevent progression of bunions. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Applying an ice pack several times a day can also help reduce inflammation and pain. If your bunion progresses to a point where you have difficulty walking or experience pain even with accommodative shoes, surgery may be necessary.
The main goal of surgery is to realign the big toe joint in order to relieve symptoms, correct deformity and restore function. Surgery to remove a bunion is known as a bunionectomy. There are many variations of this operation and the type of surgery performed will vary depending on factors such as the degree of deformity, the strength of the bones, the person's age and the surgeon?s preferred approach. Most surgery involves the removal of the bony outgrowth (exostosis) and the realignment of the bones of the joint. Soft tissue structures such as the ligaments and tendons may be repositioned and the bursa may be removed. The insertion of screws and pins may be required to stabilise the bones in their new, realigned position.
Here are some tips to help you prevent bunions. Wear shoes that fit well. Use custom orthotic devices. Avoid shoes with small toe boxes and high heels. Exercise daily to keep the muscles of your feet and legs strong and healthy. Follow your doctor?s treatment and recovery instructions thoroughly. Unfortunately, if you suffer from bunions due to genetics, there may be nothing you can do to prevent them from occurring. Talk with your doctor about additional prevention steps you can take, especially if you are prone to them.