A bunion is a combination of an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe as well as the big toe being angled towards the rest of the toes (this angulation is known as Hallux Valgus). A bunion can lead to other foot deformities and problems such as a hammer toe of the second toe, corns and calluses as well as ingrown toenails. So if the pain isn't enough of a driving factor, the chance of developing these further complications should outline the importance and urgency of seeking treatment with a podiatrist.
Shoes with narrow toes can trigger a bunion, but they?re not the underlying cause. Bunions run in families, because foot type (shape and structure) is hereditary, and some types are more prone to bunions than others. Low arches, flat feet, and loose joints and tendons all increase the risk. The shape of the metatarsal head (the top of the first metatarsal bone) also makes a difference: if it?s too round, the joint is less stable and more likely to deform when squeezed into shoes with narrow toes.
Your bunion may not cause any symptoms. Or you may have pain in your big toe, red or irritated skin over the bunion, and swelling at the base of the big toe. The big toe may point toward the other toes and cause problems in other toes, such as hammer toe . A bunionette can cause similar symptoms at the base of the little toe.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions can be treated conservatively (without surgery) using simple measures such as well-fitting shoes, orthoses simple painkillers and padding. Physiotherapy can help improve associated muscle imbalances. Such measures will not correct or even stop the deformity but they can help with symptoms. When non-surgical treatments prove insufficient, surgery can relieve your pain, correct any related foot deformity and help you resume your normal activities.
In severe hallux valgus bunion cases, the first long bone (metatarsal) in the foot dramatically shifts away from the second metatarsal, resulting in looseness and a large deformity. In severe bunion corrections, a surgery known as the Lapidus procedure realigns the first metatarsal into its natural position. Using screws, the surgery holds the bone stable so it does not shift again and reduces the change of the bunion returning to basically none. Surgery may also involve removing the enlarged portion of the bunion region, cutting and realigning the bone, and correcting the position of the tendons and ligaments. By using a special plate with Lapidus procedures, University Foot and Ankle Institute patients are able to put weight on their foot after only 2-3 weeks, rather than the typical 6-8 weeks of no weight.