A bunion is a bone deformity caused by an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe ( metatarsophalangeal joint ). Bunions form when the toe moves out of place. The enlargement and its protuberance cause friction and pressure as they rub against footwear. The growing enlargement or protuberance then causes more irritation or inflammation. In some cases, the big toe moves toward the second toe and rotates or twists, which is known as Hallux Abducto Valgus. Bunions can also lead to other toe deformities, such as hammertoe.
The most common cause of bunions is wearing shoes that are too tight. The condition is not hereditary, but it does tend to run in families-often due to a faulty foot structure. Other causes of this condition might be neuromuscular problems, flat feet, pronated feet, or foot injuries.
With the positional change of the hallux, pain is a common occurrence. As the foot goes through the gait cycle the hallux plays an integral role as the body's weight transmits through during propulsion. With this in mind, it easy to see how the change in the hallux joints (metatarsal phalangeal joint and the proximal interphalangeal) would cause joint narrowing and early degeneration of the articular cartilage. In addition, two small bones (ossicles) found underneath just behind the joint will start placing extra pressure on the metatarsal. Along with bony changes, there are many soft tissue changes as the hallux and metatarsal reposition, which causes added strain to other bony structures and can accelerate the problem.
Bunions are readily apparent, you can see the prominence at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate your condition, the Podiatrist may arrange for x-rays to be taken 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. There is no clear-cut way to predict how fast a bunion will get worse. The severity of the bunion and the symptoms you have will help determine what treatment is recommended for you.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are two ways to treat this pathological foot conditions, conservatively and surgically. Conservative treatment is the first line treatment which consists of splints and orthotic care to reduce the causative factors. Realigning the foot with the aid of an orthotic helps prevent further degeneration and/or reduce symptoms of HAV in any stage of its deformity. Along with orthotic care, patients may require debridement of corns and calluses produced due to extra forces produced on the foot. Orthotics will also help the function of the big toe joint as it allows it to bend in the correct position. Footwear advice is also essential in the conservative care of bunions, HAV, there may be a need to change footwear, so it is able to fit properly and be compliment with orthotics. Surgical correction of bunions, HAV is available, however should only be considered when conservative care has failed to reduce the onset of bunions, HAV. It is only considered if there is a clear sign that it will induce a better quality of life for the patient.
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.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing bunions is to wear shoes that fit properly. Shoes that are too tight or have high heels can force your toes together. Bunions are rare in populations that don?t wear shoes. Make sure your shoes are the correct size and that there's enough room to move your toes freely. It's best to avoid wearing shoes with high heels or pointed toes.