Bunions are common but they can be misdiagnosed. We sometimes assume that any lump at the bottom of the big toe is a bunion. But as the Latin name (hallux valgus) suggests, the hallmark of a bunion is what happens to the toe itself (the hallux) rather than to the joint at its base. In bunions, the toe veers off in a valgus direction, that is, away from the midline. An outcrop of extra bone, or osteophyte, develops as the body tries to protect the exposed surface of the warped first metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP); a fluid-filled sac, or bursa, may also form, which often becomes inflamed. Foot experts are still not entirely agreed about what causes bunions. Genetics and lax ligaments are both implicated; the role of footwear is less clear. All bunion conversations seem to involve someone stating that barefoot tribes people don?t get bunions. This is not true.
Bunions are more common in women than men. The problem can run in families. People born with abnormal bones in their feet are more likely to form a bunion. Wearing narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes may lead to the development of a bunion. The condition may become painful as the bump gets worse. Extra bone and a fluid-filled sac grow at the base of the big toe.
Bunions may cause no pain at first. But as the big toe begins to turn in towards the other toes, people with bunions usually experience redness, pain, swelling, and tenderness in the area around the joint. Pressure inside the joint or from footwear pressing against the bunion may also cause discomfort. As the affected toe curves closer to the other toes on the foot, these toes can become painful as well. Complications of bunions include corns, calluses, hammer toe, and ingrown toenails. Other complications include irritation of the nerves surrounding the bunion area. Excess rubbing of the bunion against the footwear may lead to changes in the skin, resulting in corns or calluses. Hammer toe is a deformity of the toe immediately next to the big toe. A hammer toe is slightly raised and points upwards from the base and downwards at the end of the toe. Ingrown toenails can result from increased pressure from the big toe on the other toes. There may also be a decrease in the amount a person can move the joint affected by the bunion. Irritation of the nerves will feel like burning or decreased sensation.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose a bunion by asking about your symptoms and examining your feet. You may also have blood tests to rule out any other medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, although this is rare. Your doctor may refer you to a podiatrist or chiropodist (healthcare professionals who specialise in conditions that affect the feet).
Non Surgical Treatment
Depending on how many of the causative factors are true, a series of exercises to ensure correct alignment and stability of the lower limb should be implemented. Supportive foot wear with correct width and arch support can provide relief -shoes such as ballet flats, thongs (flip flops) and Ugg boots (or slippers) should be avoided. Mobilization of the mid foot to help re-align the toe correctly, and then taping and padding in the shoe to keep the toe in alignment. Taping to help draw the 1st metatarsal back in towards the second and correct any rotation and drop of the 1st metatarsal. Foam padding shaped like a donut to off load the pressure on the outside of the big toe.
Bunions are painful deformities that develop when your big toe and first metatarsal slide out of alignment. Most of the time, this condition can be managed and your pain relieved using entirely conservative measures. Since this is a bone deformity, however, the problem can?t be truly corrected without a surgical procedure. Surgery for bunions realigns the displaced bones and restores the foot?s normal function.
The best protection against developing bunions is to protect and care for your feet every day. Avoid tight and narrow-fitting shoes. Limit your use of high heels. Wear comfortable shoes with adequate space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Getting treatment for very flat or very high-arched feet (if you are experiencing symptoms) will give your feet the proper support and help maintain stability and balance.