A bunion is a deformity of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint of the big toe in which the metatarsal bone shifts inward, away from the rest of the foot and the big toe shifts outward, towards the other toes. This results in a "crooked" big toe. As a result, the tissues around the MTP joint can become irritated and painful. A small fluid filled sac called a bursa sits on the inner side of the MTP joint. This bursa decreases friction between the skin and the underlying bone. It can also become irritated and painful.
Bunions have a number of causes, primarily genetics and bad choices in footwear. We inherit traits like flat feet, abnormal bone structure, and loose ligaments and tendons from our parents. When our feet are weakened by these traits and we stuff them into high heels or shoes which don?t support our feet correctly, the repeated stress on the front of the foot may contribute to the formation of a bunion. Other contributing factors are jobs that demand a lot of time standing, obesity, and sudden hormonal changes and weight gain, as in pregnancy. Unfortunately, bunions can lead to many other foot conditions as well. The joint behind the big toe carries much of your body weight and when the bunion makes it sore, you shift your weight onto other areas of the foot. That?s why we frequently see crossover toes, overlapping toes, hammer toes, corns, calluses, and ingrown toenails accompanying bunions. As pain in your foot increases, you?ll also reduce your activity, becoming more sedentary, which has its own quality-of-life issues.
The most common symptoms associated with this condition are pain on the side of the foot. Shoes will typically aggravate bunions. Stiff leather shoes or shoes with a tapered toe box are the prime offenders. This is why bunion pain is most common in women whose shoes have a pointed toe box. The bunion site will often be slightly swollen and red from the constant rubbing and irritation of a shoe. Occasionally, corns can develop between the 1st and 2nd toe from the pressure the toes rubbing against each other. On rare occasions, the joint itself can be acutely inflamed from the development of a sac of fluid over the bunion called a bursa. This is designed to protect and cushion the bone. However, it can become acutely inflamed, a condition referred to as bursitis.
Your family doctor or chiropodist /podiatrist can identify a bunion simply by examining your foot. During the exam, your big toe will be moved up and down to determine if your range of motion is limited. You will be examined for signs of redness or swelling and be questioned about your history of pain. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen. A X-ray of your foot may help identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Non Surgical Treatment
One of the best things you can do is to go for wider, deeper shoes. Trevor Prior says there should be a centimeter between the end of your longest toe and end of shoe. You should also choose shoes with an adjustable strap or lace. Podiatrists often recommend exercises to strengthen muscles and tendons around the big toe. Here?s one you can try yourself. Put your feet side by side, and try to move your big toes towards each other. Do this three or four times a day, while you?re in the bath or in bed.
The most simple procedure is reducing the bump, and while there will be a little pain and swelling afterwards and your mobility will be restricted, the recovery time is short (ie a few weeks), but it may not fix the underlying cause. More serious ops might involve lasers, robots, cutting bone in the foot and trying to reposition it, and/or inserting pins or wires. It can take months to recover fully and you might need a cast. Mike O?Neill recommends seeking an NHS consultant surgeon who specialises in bunion removal to ensure the best possible outcome. The type of anaesthetic, local or general, will depend on the procedure, but most are day cases and the surgery will take from less than 30 minutes to a couple of hours. Waiting times vary but from your first outpatient appointment to the op would be a minimum of a few months. Private treatment (preferably by an NHS consultant surgeon) is likely to cost thousands of pounds. A new less, invasive procedure called surgical correction of hallux valgus that makes a small incision in the bone has recently been approved for use in the NHS but there is still no conclusive evidence on how effective it is and it is not widely available.
The simplest way to reduce your chance of developing foot bunion or bunionette problems is to wear good-fitting shoes. Avoid high heels as they push your feet forwards to the front of the shoe where they get squashed. Also avoid narrow fitting shoes, especially those that are pointed at the front with a narrow toe box as again, these place pressure through the toes pushing them inwards. Shoes should be comfortable and leave enough room for you to wiggle your toes. Remember, bunions rarely affect non-shoe wearing people. Exercising your feet can also help. By strengthening the foot muscles you can improve your foot position which can help reduce foot bunion problems. Simple exercises like picking up small objects with your toes can help.