A bunion forms when the bursa (a sac of fluid at friction points between the tendons and bone in some areas and between bone and the skin in others) becomes inflamed along the edge of the joint at the base of the big toe. There are two types of bunions. The acute bunion causes the sharper pain. It develops from a bursitis, a sudden outcropping of a fluid-filled sac. An acute bunion can progress into the second type of bunion, the hallux valgus, a chronic but often painless deformity involving permanent rigidity of the bones. Bunions can form in any part of the foot but occur most often at the big toe joint, where the first metatarsal bone abuts the proximal phalanx of the big toe. Women are more likely than men to get bunions because of the misshapen footwear and elevated heels they wear.
Bunions are among the most common problems of the foot. They are several possible reasons a bunion may develop, though a biomechanical abnormality (improper function of the foot) is the most common cause. In an unstable flat foot, for example, a muscular imbalance often develops that, over time, causes bunions. Bunions tend to run in families, and most podiatrists believe that genetic factors play a role in predisposing some people to develop bunions. Poor shoes, like high heels and pointed toe boxes--exacerbate the condition by speeding up the development of bunions, and by making bunions more painful. Poor shoe choices is at least one of the reasons bunions are much more common in women than men.
Movement of the big toe towards the smaller toes. Bulging bump on the outside of the base of the big toe. Restricted movement of the big toe. Swelling, inflammation, redness or soreness around your big toe joint. Persistent or sporadic dull, sharp or aching pain in or around the big toe. Corns, blisters and calluses which can develop when the first and second toes overlap. Over time, more severe symptoms can occur such as arthritis of the big toe, stress fractures and problems walking.
Your doctor can identify a bunion by examining your foot. Watching your big toe as you move it up and down will help your doctor determine if your range of motion is limited. Your doctor will also look for redness or swelling. After the physical exam, an X-ray of your foot can help your doctor identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions are progressive problems, meaning they tend to get worse over time. Sometimes severe-looking bunions don't hurt much, and sometimes relatively modest-looking bunions hurt a great deal. Thus, treatment varies depending upon a patient's symptoms. You can often improve the discomfort of bump pain by a change to more proper shoes. Alternatively, alterations to existing shoes may improve pain associated with bunions. Accommodative padding, shields and various over-the-counter and custom-made orthopaedic appliances can also alleviate bunion pain. Anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, physiotherapy, massage, stretching, acupuncture and other conservative treatment options may be recommended by your podiatric physician to calm down an acutely painful bunion. Long term, orthoses (orthotics) can address many of the mechanical causes of a bunion. Thus, while orthoses don't actually correct a bunion deformity, if properly designed and made, they can slow the progression of bunions. They can also be made to redistribute weight away from pain in the ball of the foot, which often accompanies bunion development. Padding, latex moulds and other accommodative devices may also be effective. While they don't correct the misalignment in the bones, they may alleviate pain. Often, though, when conservative measures fail to alleviate pain associated with the bunion, when you start to limit the types of activities you perform, when it's difficult to find comfortable shoes, and when arthritis changes how you walk, surgery may be the best alternative.
Bunion surgery is most often a day case or one night in hospital. Surgery can be done under ankle block (patient awake) or general anaesthetic. It is best to rest with the foot elevated for the first 2 weeks after surgery. The foot is bandaged and a special sandal supplied by the hospital is worn for 6 weeks. Sensible shoes are to be worn for a further 6 weeks after the bandages are removed. It will take between 3-6 months for the swelling to go down. It will take 12 months before everything completely settles. It is also important to remember that not all bunion operations are entirely successful.