Bunion is the common term for a medical condition known as Hallux Valgus. Hallux Valgus is the tilting of the toe away from the mid-line of the body. It is usually characterized by a lump or bump that is red, swollen and/or painful on the inside of the foot in and around the big toe joint.
You may get bunions if the way your foot is shaped puts too much pressure on your big toe joint. Because bunions can run in families, some experts believe that the inherited shape of the foot makes some people more likely to get them. Your foot rolls inward too much when you walk. A moderate amount of inward roll, or pronation, is normal. But damage and injury can happen with too much pronation. You have flat feet. You often wear shoes that are too tight. All of these may put pressure on the big toe joint. Over time, the constant pressure forces the big toe out of alignment, bending it toward the other toes.
The initial symptom may be pain at the joint prominence when wearing certain shoes. The joint capsule may be tender at any stage. Later symptoms may include a painful, warm, red, cystic, movable, fluctuant swelling located medially (adventitial bursitis) and swellings and mild inflammation affecting the entire joint (osteoarthritic synovitis), which is more circumferential. With hallux limitus or rigidus, there is restriction of passive joint motion, tenderness at the dorsolateral aspect of the joint, and increased dorsiflexion of the distal phalanx.
The doctor considers a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position.
Non Surgical Treatment
Detecting and treating bunions can relieve many of the symptoms associated with this condition. Doctors often consider whether the condition requires non-surgical or surgical treatment. The decision is based on the severity of the symptoms. Because bunions often get worse over time, early detection and proper treatment are very important. Some non-surgical methods to reduce the symptoms related to bunions include cushioning the area with padding or tape, taking medication to relieve pain and inflammation, using physiotherapy to reduce pain and related symptoms (e.g., ultrasound, whirlpool baths, joint mobilization), wearing custom orthotics to provide better movement and stability of the foot, wearing well-fitted comfortable shoes that are not too tight (if your shoes used to fit but now are too tight around the bunion area, you may be able to have them stretched in this area), using a special splint at night to decrease the amount the toe angles towards the other toes. When non-surgical methods do not provide relief, surgery may be needed. During surgery, the doctor will remove the tissue or bone in the area of the bunion and attempt to straighten the big toe, and may join the bones of the affected joint.
One of the more popular proximal metatarsal osteotomies that is performed is called the Myerson/Ludloff procedure. This operation is performed for more advanced deformity. Screws are inserted into the metatarsal to hold the bone cut secure and speed up bone healing. Walking is permitted in a surgical shoe following surgery. The shoe is worn approximately 5 weeks.
Shoes that possess tapering toe boxes should be avoided if you have a bunion, as narrow toe boxes will hasten the progression of your bunion deformity. In some cases, conservative measures, including switching to appropriate footwear, may not have the desired effect, and your podiatrist may recommend for you a surgical procedure known as a bunionectomy.