A bunion is an abnormal bump, or bony enlargement that forms at the base of your big toe. In the early stages, the bunion may be small and the side of your foot may be slightly swollen. As it progresses, the bump gets larger and becomes increasingly painful. Your big toe may point towards your other toes, rather than straight. Shoes may be uncomfortable to wear and add to the irritation of the joint.
By far the most common cause of bunions is the prolonged wearing of poorly fitting shoes, usually shoes with a narrow, pointed toe box that squeezes the toes into an unnatural position. Bunions also may be caused by arthritis or polio. Heredity often plays a role in bunion formation. But these causes account for only a small percentage of bunions. A study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society found that 88 percent of women in the U.S. wear shoes that are too small and 55 percent have bunions. Not surprisingly, bunions are nine times more common in women than men.
SymptomsThe symptoms of a bunion include the following development of a firm bump on the outside edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe, redness, swelling, or pain at or near the MTP joint, corns or other irritations caused by the overlap of the first and second toes, restricted or painful motion of the big toe.
Your doctor is very likely to be able to diagnose your bunion simply by examining your foot. Even before that, he or she will probably ask about your family and personal medical history and evaluate the types of shoes you wear. You'll be asked about your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. You may also be asked to flex your toe so that your doctor can get an idea of your range of motion. He or she may order x-rays in order to determine the extent of your deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Early treatment of bunions is centered on providing symptomatic relief. Switching to a shoe with a rounder, deeper toe box and made of a softer more pliable leather will often provide immediate relief. The use of pads and cushions to reduce the pressure over the bone can also be helpful for mild bunion deformities. Functional foot orthotics, by controlling abnormal pronation, reduces the deforming forces leading to bunions in the first place. These may help reduce pain in mild bunion deformities and slow the progression of the deformity. When these conservative measures fail to provided adequate relief, surgical correction is indicated.
If the conservative options fail, your doctor will determine the best surgical procedure based on the severity of your condition. The most common surgical procedure is a bunionectomy, which includes removing swollen tissue from around your big toe joint. Removing part of the bone to straighten your big toe. Realigning the metatarsal bone to reduce angular deformity. Joining the bones in a corrected position to permanently correct the deformity. Most people can get up and walk around the day after bunion surgery, but full recovery can occasionally take up to eight weeks or more. Doctors stress the importance of wearing proper shoes, especially after treatment, to prevent recurrence. If you are at higher risk or prone to bunions, you may not be able to avoid recurrence.