The original definition of a bunion was a bursa (a fluid-filled sac) on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe. The bursa was caused by a chronic friction of the patient's first metatarsal bone (the bone to which the big toe attaches) and the shoe. Few people go by this definition any longer. Today most people consider a bunion to be the enlarged bone on the side of the foot that typically caused the bursa. Along with this bump, there is usually an associated mis-alignment of the big toe, with it leaning in towards the second toe. In medical jargon, the term for a bunion is "Hallux Abducto Valgus," or "HAV" for short. Though the condition is really slightly different, it may also be known as "Hallux Valgus." Bunions are usually a progressive problem, and can make it difficult to find shoes that fit. The condition is often quite uncomfortable, not only because of the pressure the shoes exert on the bump, but because of the other factors associated with bunions, which we shall discuss shortly. This is usually a progressive problem, and can make it difficult to find shoes that fit. The condition is often quite uncomfortable, not only because of the pressure the shoes exert on the bump, but because of the other factors associated with bunions, which we shall discuss shortly.
No one single cause has been proven. There are a number of causes, and though shoes can exacerbate the problem, bunions do occur in societies that don?t wear them. We walk on the same type of ground all the time, whereas the human foot was actually designed to adapt to varying terrains. In a sense, a bunion is a type of repetitive strain injury. And like repetitive strain injury, some people are more prone to it than others. One theory, though it remains unproven, is that bunions are caused by one or both of the following. Because the foot wasn?t designed to constantly walk on a level surface, the ball of the big toe is slightly lower than the ball of the rest of your foot. When your foot meets the ground, the ball of the big toe is pushed up, and the big toe joint can?t bend as well as it was designed to. In order for the big toe joint to bend fully as you walk, your foot rolls slightly over to the side (this is also why people with hallux valgus often get hard skin). Also, if your midtarsal joint tends to move from side to side more than it does up and down, the arch in your foot collapses as your foot rolls in. This also makes you more prone to developing bunions. Such problems can be exacerbated by tight footwear. Slip-on shoes can make matters worse. Because they have to be tighter to stay on your feet, you automatically have less room for your toes. And with nothing to hold your foot in place, your toes often slide to the end where they?re exposed to lots of pressure. Likewise, high heels throw more weight onto the ball of the foot, putting your toes under further pressure. If you haven?t got a bunion by adulthood and you later develop one, there could be some underlying arthritis.
The skin over your big toe may be red and tender. Wearing any type of shoe may be painful. This joint flexes with every step you take. Your big toe may angle toward your second toe, or even move all the way under it. The skin on the bottom of your foot may become thicker and painful. Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping your third toe. If this condition gets severe, it may be difficult to walk. Your pain may become chronic and you may develop arthritis.
Clinical findings are usually specific. Acute circumferential intense pain, warmth, swelling, and redness suggest gouty arthritis (see Gout) or infectious arthritis (see Acute Infectious Arthritis), sometimes mandating examination of synovial fluid. If multiple joints are affected, gout or another systemic rheumatic disease should be considered. If clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritic synovitis is equivocal, x-rays are taken. Suggestive findings include joint space narrowing and bony spurs extending from the metatarsal head or sometimes from the base of the proximal phalanx. Periarticular erosions (Martel sign) seen on imaging studies suggest gout.
Non Surgical Treatment
Changing your footwear to roomy and comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes. Padding and taping applied by chiropodist/podiatrist to your foot can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain. Oral medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may help control the pain of a bunion. Cortisone injections. Over-the-counter arch supports can help distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Prescription foot orthotic devices to help stabilize the forefoot. Manual foot therapy to free up motion in arthritic foot joints.
Procedures are designed and chosen to correct a variety of pathologies that may be associated with the bunion. For instance, procedures may address some combination of removing the abnormal bony enlargement of the first metatarsal, realigning the first metatarsal bone relative to the adjacent metatarsal bone, straightening the great toe relative to the first metatarsal and adjacent toes, realigning the cartilagenous surfaces of the great toe joint, addressing arthritic changes associated with the great toe joint, repositioning the sesamoid bones beneath the first metatarsal bone, shortening, lengthening, raising, or lowering the first metatarsal bone, and correcting any abnormal bowing or misalignment within the great toe. Connecting two parallel long bones side by side by Syndesmosis Procedure. At present there are many different bunion surgeries for different effects. The age, health, lifestyle and activity level of the patient may also play a role in the choice of procedure. Traditional bunion surgery can be performed under local, spinal or general anesthetic. In the case of laser surgery, a narcotic analgesic is typically used. The trend has moved strongly toward using the less invasive local anesthesia over the years. A patient can expect a 6- to 8-week recovery period during which crutches are usually required for aid in mobility. An orthopedic cast is much less common today as newer, more stable procedures and better forms of fixation (stabilizing the bone with screws and other hardware) are used. Hardware may even include absorbable pins that perform their function and are then broken down by the body over the course of months.
There are some steps that may help prevent, or at least slow, the progression of bunions. Avoid shoes with a narrow toe box. If your foot flattens excessively, make sure you wear supportive shoes, and if necessary, get custom orthotics from your podiatrist. See your podiatrist at the first signs or symptoms of a bunion deformity, as early treatment may stop or slow its progression.