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.
Bunions are not hereditary, but they do tend to run in families, usually because of a faulty foot structure. Foot injuries, neuromuscular problems, flat feet, and pronated feet can contribute to their formation. It is estimated that bunions occur in 33 percent of the population in Western countries.
Symptoms include redness, swelling and pain which may be present along the inside margin of the foot. The patients feet may become too wide to fit into their normal size shoes and moderate to severe discomfort may occur when the patient is wearing tight shoes. A "hammer toe" may occur at the 2nd toe. This is when the toe contracts and presses on the shoe. Subsequently, this may cause a corn on top of the 2nd toe.
A thorough medical history and physical exam by a physician is necessary for the proper diagnosis of bunions and other foot conditions. X-rays can help confirm the diagnosis by showing the bone displacement, joint swelling, and, in some cases, the overgrowth of bone that characterizes bunions. Doctors also will consider the possibility that the joint pain is caused by or complicated by Arthritis, which causes destruction of the cartilage of the joint. Gout, which causes the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joint. Tiny fractures of a bone in the foot or stress fractures. Infection. Your doctor may order additional tests to rule out these possibilities.
Non Surgical Treatment
Long-term treatment of bunions must be directed towards re-balancing the foot, so that we no longer walk with our weight forced on to the inner border of the foot. This is accomplished by controlling and reducing pronation with the use of a high quality arch support or custom made orthotics. These devices comfortably re-balance the feet and overcome pronation. This reduces the abnormal weight forces on the big toe and its metatarsal head, allowing the feet to function normally. As a result, the deformity should not worsen, and the pain should gradually subside. If the foot is not re-balanced, the deformity and pain will become worse.
In 2010, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidance about a minimally invasive surgical procedure to treat bunions. The aim of the procedure is to repair the tilting of the big toe. The technique can be carried out under a local anaesthetic or a general anaesthetic, using X-rays or an endoscope for guidance. The type of endoscope used will be a long, thin, rigid tube with a light source and video camera at one end. One or more incisions will be made near the big toe so that bone-cutting instruments can be inserted. These will be used to remove the bunion and to divide one or more bones located at the front of the foot. Wires, screws or plates will be used to keep the divided bones in place. After the procedure, you may need to wear a plaster cast or dressing to keep your foot in the correct position until the bones have healed. You may be given a special surgical shoe that enables you to walk on your heel. As the procedure is relatively new, there's little in the way of reliable evidence regarding its safety or effectiveness.
If the diagnosis is made early on, such as in preadolescence, bunion development can be slowed and in some cases arrested with the proper supportive shoe gear and custom functional shoe inserts (orthotics). Avoidance of certain athletic activities with improper shoe fit and toe pressure can prevent the symptoms that occur with bunions.