A bunion is a firm, fluid-filled pad overlying the inside of the joint at the base of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint). The pad (bursa), which may get larger and stick out, can become inflamed and painful. Bunions may run in families, but many result from wearing tight shoes. Nine out of 10 bunions are developed by women. Nine out of 10 women wear shoes that are too small. Tight shoes also can cause other disabling foot problems like corns, calluses and hammertoes.
Hereditary and shoe gear are probably the most likely causes. Tight pointy shoes (and high heels) may promote the formation of a bunion. A bunion may develop rapidly or develop slowly over time. Some people have bunions in their teens while others only develop a bunion later in life. Bunions come in a variety of sizes – from small to severe. In some cases, the big toe may push against the second toe, and may result in pain and a hammer toe, or progress onto a severe disfiguring foot deformity. Depending on your overall health, symptoms and severity of the bunion, the condition may be treated conservatively and/or with surgery.
SymptomsRedness, swelling, or pain along the inside margin of the foot just behind the great toe. Moderate to severe discomfort at the bunion when wearing shoes, particularly if tight fitting. A painful callus may develop over the bunion. Sometimes a painful corn on the adjacent sides of the first and second toes. Irritation if there is overlapping of the first and second toes. Arthritis may cause stiffness and discomfort in the joint between the great toe and the first metatarsal. There may be a fluid filled cyst or bursa between the skin and the “bunion bone”. Skin over the bunion may break down causing an ulceration, which can become infected.
A simple visual exam is all it will take for your doctor to determine whether you have a bunion. He or she may also ask you to move your big toe in order to ascertain your range of motion. Your doctor may also look for any inflammation, redness, or pain. X-rays can help your doctor determine the severity and cause of the bunion. Your doctor may also ask you questions about your footwear, the symptoms you are experiencing, and if other family members also suffer from the condition. All these factors will help him or her diagnose you properly.
Non Surgical Treatment
Fortunately, many bunions never go on to cause problems other than the cosmetic appearance. The easiest option is to try different shoes or padding, however this is not the answer for everyone. The various straps and braces that are commercially available are not proven to be particularly effective.
There are many different surgical procedures that can be performed. The decision to perform one type of surgery or another is based upon the extent and magnitude of the bunion deformity, the presence of arthritis in the big toe joint, and the space between the first and second metatarsals, which is called the intermetatarsal angle. It is very rare that a bunion can be treated by simply shaving down the bump of the bone. Invariably, the deformity will recur and both the bunion and the hallux valgus will return. Therefore, the shaving of the bunion, called an exostectomy, is performed in conjunction with a cut of the first metatarsal bone (which is called an osteotomy).