A bunion, or Hallux Valgus, is a foot deformity characterised by deviation of the bones around the big toe joint of the foot. As a result, there is a large exostosis or bony lump on the inside of the foot and the toe is pointed across towards the smaller toes. It is a common problem, more so in women and has been attributed to tight fitting footwear. This article will cover the basics of bunions, what it is due to, and what treatment is available.
Women are particularly at risk for bunions, as high heels may help aggravate the condition. Bunions may also be caused when bursal sacs, sacs that absorb friction and lubricate the many tendons, bones muscles of the body, in the foot become inflamed or swollen. Bunions may also be prompted by the metatarsal bone, the bone that runs from the heel to the toe of the foot, with one metatarsal bone leading to each toe, of the big toe enlarging or deviating slightly to the outside of the foot.
While bunions may be considered cosmetically undesirable, they are not necessarily painful. In cases where the individual has minor discomfort that can be eased by wearing wider shoes made of soft leather and/or with the aid of spacers-padding placed between the toes to correct alignment-further treatment may not be necessary. (Anti-inflammatory agents can be used to alleviate temporary discomfort at the site of the bursa.) For those who continue to experience pain on a daily basis and who cannot wear most types of shoe comfortably, surgical treatment may be the best choice.
A doctor can very often diagnose a bunion by looking at it. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
The initial treatment of a bunion should be non-operative. Symptoms can often be greatly improved with simple non-operative interventions. Non-operative treatment may include properly fitted shoes, Properly fitting comfort shoes with a wide non-constrictive toe box, especially one that is made out of a soft material such as leather, can be quite helpful in reducing the irritation over the prominent bunion. In some instances, it is helpful to have a shoemaker stretch the inside aspect of the shoe. Jamming a foot with a bunion into a constrictive shoe will likely lead to the development of uncomfortable symptoms. Bunion pads, Medial bunion pads may also be helpful in decreasing the symptoms associated with the bunion. These pads can be obtained at many drugstores. Essentially, they serve to lessen the irritation over the medial prominence and, thereby, decrease the associated inflammation This should be combined with comfortable non-constrictive shoes. A toe spacer placed between the great toe and the second toe can help to reduce the bunion deformity and, thereby, decrease the stretch on the medial tissue and the irritation associated with the bunion. Toe spacers can be obtained at most drug stores or online. Soft shoe inserts. Over-the-counter accommodative orthotics may also help bunion symptoms. This product is particularly helpful if bunion symptoms include pain that is under the ball of the foot. Orthotics with a slight medial longitudinal arch may be helpful for patients that have associated flatfoot deformity. These can be purchased at many sports stores, outdoors stores, or pharmacies. Bunion splints have often been used to treat the symptoms associated with hallux valgus. These splints are typically worn at night in an effort to reduce the bunion deformity. There is no evidence to suggest that these splints decrease the rate at which bunion deformities occur. There is also no evidence that clearly supports their effectiveness. However, some patients report good relief with the use of these splints.
Surgery takes place either under local or general anaesthetic and takes about one hour. After surgery you will have either a plaster cast or special dressing on the foot and you will be given a special walking shoe and crutches to use the first few days/weeks. Recovery usually takes approximately 6-8 weeks but swelling often lasts longer and it may take a few months before you are able to wear normal shoes again. Full recovery can take up to a year. Bunion surgery is successful in approximately 85% of cases, but it is vital not to go back to wearing ill-fitting shoes else the problem is likely to return.
To help prevent bunions, select your style and size of shoes wisely. Choose shoes with a wide toe area and a half-inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Shoes also should conform to the shape of your feet without causing too much pressure.