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.
Abnormality in foot function, particularly a pronated foot. This is probably the most important and common causative factor. Family history of bunions. Narrow toed dress shoes and high heels may contribute to the formation of a bunion. Rheumatoid and Psoriatic arthritis. Genetic and neuromuscular disease (eg. Down's,Ehler-Danlos and Marfan's syndromes) resulting in muscle imbalance. Limb length inequality can cause a bunion on the longer limb. Generalized laxity of the ligaments. Trauma to or surgery on the soft tissue structures around the great toe (first metatarsal-phalangeal) joint.
Movement of the big toe towards the smaller toes. Bulging bump on the outside of the base of the big toe. Restricted movement of the big toe. Swelling, inflammation, redness or soreness around your big toe joint. Persistent or sporadic dull, sharp or aching pain in or around the big toe. Corns, blisters and calluses which can develop when the first and second toes overlap. Over time, more severe symptoms can occur such as arthritis of the big toe, stress fractures and problems walking.
Orthopaedic surgeons diagnose bunions on the basis of physical examination and weight bearing x-rays. Two angles are assessed, the intermetatarsal angle, that is between the first and second metatarsals (the bones that lead up to the base of the toes). If this angle exceeds 9? (the angle found in the healthy foot) it is abnormal and referred to as metatarsus primus varus. the hallux valgus angle, that is, the angle of the big toe as it drifts toward the small toe. An angle that exceeds 15? is considered to be a sign of pathology.
Non Surgical Treatment
Apply a commercial bunion pad around the bony prominence, use only non-medicated pads. Wear shoes with a wide and deep toe box. You should be able to "dimple" the leather over your bunion. Avoid all high heeled shoes. If your bunion becomes painful red, and swollen try elevating your foot and applying ice for about 20 minuets every hour. If symptoms persist, consult your podiatrist or physician.
Surgery is a last option for those with advanced and painful bunions that do not respond to any other treatment. The surgical operation to correct the deformity from a bunion is called a bunionectomy, which typically involves removing bony growth of the bunion, re-positioning ligaments and tendons, and realigning the bones of the toe joint. Surgery is usually a day procedure performed with a local anaesthetic. The bones may be stabilised in their new position with screws or pins. Hardware may even include absorbable pins that are broken down by the body after a few months. You can expect a 6 - 8 week recovery period during which crutches are usually required. Surgery is often successful but sometimes the big toe moves back to its previous deviated position. Proper footwear and orthotics reduces the chances of surgical failure.