A bunion (also called Hallux Valgus) is a painful swelling caused by deformity of the big toe. As this swelling is caused by a bone it can be very unforgiving in shoes, which can rub on it causing pain, particularly formal foot shoes or high heels. Arthritis, or wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes over a period of many years, may increase the risk of bunions. However, they can have other causes. Bunions are more common in women and sometimes run in families.
Bunions form when the normal balance of forces that is exerted on the joints and tendons of the foot becomes disrupted. This disruption can lead to instability in the joint and cause the deformity. Bunions are brought about by years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint. They are, therefore, a symptom of faulty foot development and are usually caused by the way we walk and our inherited foot type or our shoes.
The dominant symptom of a bunion is a big bulging bump on the inside of the base of the big toe. Other symptoms include swelling, soreness and redness around the big toe joint, a tough callus at the bottom of the big toe and persistent or intermittent pain.
Clinical findings are usually specific. Acute circumferential intense pain, warmth, swelling, and redness suggest gouty arthritis (see Gout) or infectious arthritis (see Acute Infectious Arthritis), sometimes mandating examination of synovial fluid. If multiple joints are affected, gout or another systemic rheumatic disease should be considered. If clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritic synovitis is equivocal, x-rays are taken. Suggestive findings include joint space narrowing and bony spurs extending from the metatarsal head or sometimes from the base of the proximal phalanx. Periarticular erosions (Martel sign) seen on imaging studies suggest gout.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment for bunions ranges from non-surgical to surgical. Conservative, non-surgical treatments are aimed to help alleviate some of the discomfort and pain from the bunion, they will not fix the problem. Some of the recommendations would be shoe modification to make room for the bunion, wearing wide toed shoes, or adding padding and cushioning to your shoes.
Severe cases may require, along with surgery, cast immobilization and prolonged avoidance of weight-bearing activity. You should know that undergoing surgery for this health problem does not guarantee a cure or even a beneficial health outcome. Bunions, like many other foot conditions, should always be approached from a prevention standpoint, or therapy should be directed at slowing the progression of your deformity.