Though a bunion is often described as a painful bump, this condition is much more complex than a simple bump on the side of the toe. X-rays show the true nature of the deformity and are used to help in the decision making process. Ranges of motion of joints associated with the toe are also performed to assess the deformity. There are many procedures for correcting a bunion and choosing the right one based on the examination increases the chance of success. The procedure performed on one person may not be the procedure required to give another a good result. In general, more severe bunion deformities require more extensive surgery and more extensive post-operative limitations. It is very important to note that the same instability and incorrect motion that causes a bunion also causes degeneration of the joint surfaces (osteoarthritis). Correction of the bunion cannot repair the damage done within the joint and continued pain from that separate process may occur. Realigning the joint may slow the damage within the joint and improve motion, but it may not alleviate all pain.
The main cause of bunions is excessive pressure being placed on the front of the foot, and is usually the result of wearing high-heeled shoes with pointed toes. A study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society found that 88 percent of women in the United States wear shoes that are too small and that 55 percent of them have bunions. Overall, bunions are nine times more common in women than men. In some cases, bunions are hereditary; they also may be caused by arthritis or polio.
SymptomsPain in the toe joint and surrounding area. Painful to touch or press, and when walking. Growth of a bony lump (exostosis) at the side of the big toe joint. Irritated skin around the bunion. Redness. Thickening of overlying skin. Blisters may form more easily. Deformed bones, joints and ligaments as the big toe shifts towards the other toes. As the big toe shifts, its base becomes more prominent, forming the bunion. Eventually the big toe is forced to lie over, or more commonly under, the second toe. The second toe of patients who have bunions commonly forms a hammer toe. Trouble with shoes. It is difficult to find shoes that fit properly. Bunions may force you to buy a larger size shoe to accommodate the width the bunion creates. Eventually it hurts to wear any shoe, or even walk barefoot.
People with bunions may be concerned about the changing appearance of their feet, but it is usually the pain caused by the condition that leads them to consult their doctor. The doctor will evaluate any symptoms experienced and examine the affected foot for joint enlargement, tissue swelling and/or tenderness. They will also assess any risk factors for the condition and will ask about family history. An x-ray of the foot is usually recommended so that the alignment of big toe joint can be assessed. This would also allow any other conditions that may be affecting the joint, such as arthritis, to be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initial treatment of bunions may include wearing comfortable, well-fitting footwear (particularly shoes that conform to the shape of the foot and do not cause pressure areas) or the use of splints and orthotics (special shoe inserts shaped to your feet) to reposition the big toe. For bunions caused by arthritis, medications may help reduce pain and swelling. If nonsurgical treatment fails, your doctor may suggest surgery, which resolves the problem in nearly all persons. The goal of surgery is to relieve pain and correct as much deformity as possible. The surgery is not cosmetic and is not meant to improve the appearance of the foot. Other related procedures that may be used to help diagnose foot disorders include X-rays of the bone and foot.
For those whose bunions cause persisting pain, a surgical operation is considered for correction of the bunion. The surgical operation to correct a bunion is referred to as a bunionectomy. Surgical procedures can correct deformity and relieve pain, leading to improved foot function. These procedures typically involve removing bony growth of the bunion while realigning the big toe joint. Surgery is often, but not always, successful; failure to relieve pain can result from the big toe moving back to its previous deviated position even after surgery. However, proper footwear and orthotics can reduce the chances of surgical failure.
If you are genetically at risk, not a lot. But shoes that are too narrow, too tight (even ballet flats) or have very high heels that force your toes down into the pointed end are asking for trouble. Aim for a 1cm gap between your toes and the end of your shoes. This doesn?t mean wearing frumpy flatties, the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists recommends sticking to 4cm heels for everyday wear, and wearing different types of shoe to vary the position of your foot. Gladiator styles can help because the straps stop your foot pushing down into the point of the shoe, ditto Mary Janes (sorry but for beautiful feet they need to have a strap), and flat, wide-fitting brogues are a no-brainer. Alternatively, in summer you can wear flip-flops to keep the space between your big and second toe as wide as possible. If you have children it?s vital to make sure that their feet are measured for properly fitting shoes to nip any potential problems in the bud. Keeping your feet and lower legs supple and strong is important too, that?s how A-list celebs get away with wearing killer heels, they all work-out like crazy. Exercises like trying to widen the space between your big toe and the second one with your foot flat on the floor, a few times a day can help, as can calf stretches. If you are devoted to any exercise that involves high impact for your feet, it might be worth checking that your gait and shoes are correct with a specialist shop such as Runners Need, as poor styles can cause irreparable bunion-related problems that will consign your trainers to the back of the cupboard for ever.