Bunions are bony protrusions located at the base of the big toe that develop when the toe is slanted inward or overlaps the next toe. They can be very painful. Bunions form when the movement of the big toe influences the angle of the bones in the foot. The changes gradually develop into the characteristic bump, which over time becomes more and more noticeable.
You are usually born with a foot type that leads to bunion formation. Flat feet with increased flexibility are most likely to form bunions. Abnormal mechanics increase the bunion formation over time. Other causes of bunions include osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, trauma, and neurovascular disease.
The skin over your big toe may be red and tender. Wearing any type of shoe may be painful. This joint flexes with every step you take. Your big toe may angle toward your second toe, or even move all the way under it. The skin on the bottom of your foot may become thicker and painful. Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping your third toe. If this condition gets severe, it may be difficult to walk. Your pain may become chronic and you may develop arthritis.
Bunions are readily apparent - the prominence is visible at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate the condition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred. Because bunions are progressive, they don?t go away, and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike - some bunions progress more rapidly than others. Once your surgeon has evaluated your bunion, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wearing good footwear does not cure the deformity but may ease symptoms of pain and discomfort. Ideally, get footwear advice from a person qualified to diagnose and treat foot disorders (podiatrist - previously called a chiropodist). Advice may include wear shoes, trainers or slippers that fit well and are roomy. Don't wear high-heeled, pointed or tight shoes. You might find that shoes with laces or straps are best, as they can be adjusted to the width of your foot. Padding over the bunion may help, as may ice packs. Devices which help to straighten the toe (orthoses) are still occasionally recommended, although trials investigating their use have not found them much better than no treatment at all. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may ease any pain. If the bunion (hallux valgus) develops as part of an arthritis then other medication may be advised. A course of antibiotics may be needed if the skin and tissues over the deformity become infected.
Surgical treatment for bunion deformities usually involves an osteotomy, a procedure in which a cut or cuts are made in the affected bone or bones to restore proper alignment. Different techniques are used depending on the type of deformity; selection is guided by the degree of deformity present and the goals of preventing recurrence and achieving the most rapid recovery possible. Some of the more common procedures are. The distal chevron osteotomy: a procedure in which a v-shaped cut is made at the toe end of the first metatarsal. This surgery is appropriate for individuals who have a congruent deformity, one in which there is a painful prominence at the base of the toe, but the joint is still well aligned. Absorbable pins are placed in the metatarsal to maintain alignment during healing. The Scarf or Ludloff osteotomy: in this procedure, a more extensive cut is made higher up in the metatarsal to correct a moderate incongruent deformity and metatarsus primus varus. Screws are used to maintain alignment during healing. The crescent osteotomy: a procedure in which a curved cut is made at the base of the metatarsal is appropriate for patients with more severe metatarsus primus varus and, therefore, require more correction. Screws or pins are used to maintain alignment. The Lapidus procedure: individuals who have severe deformity, instability of the first ray, with a loose metatarsal-tarsal joint (located in the mid-foot) may not get enough correction from an osteotomy alone. Moreover, the looseness of the joint may lead to recurrence or be causing pain on the ball of the foot because the first metatarsal is floating up, allowing for excessive weight to go to adjacent metatarsals (commonly the second and the third). In such cases, the metatarsal-tarsus joint is fused to provide lasting stability. Screws are used to maintain alignment. The loss of motion from the fusion is small and does not significantly limit motion of the big toe. Patients undergoing bunion surgery are given an ankle block that anesthetizes the foot from the ankle down. Depending on individual preference, a sedative may be given as well and the patient can be as sedated as they wish. All bunion surgeries may be done on a same-day basis, eliminating the need for hospitalization.
Bunions often become painful if they are allowed to progress. But not all bunions progress. Many bunion problems can be managed without surgery. In general, bunions that are not painful do not need surgical correction. For this reason, orthopaedic surgeons do not recommend "preventive" surgery for bunions that do not hurt; with proper preventive care, they may never become a problem.