A bunion is a deviation and inflammation of joint where the big toe connects to the 1st metatarsal, also known as the 1st MTP. The capsule of the joint is displaced, thickened and enlarged, and the cartilage of the joint is damaged. There are three degrees of bunions: mild, moderate and severe. It is important to know that bunions are not hereditary, although the tendency to overpronate, which is one of the main causes of bunions, has a hereditary component. Patients complain of pain in the joint and have a big toe that points away from the midline of the body. Often, they are only able to wear very wide shoes.
Bunions most commonly affect women. Some studies report that bunion symptoms occur nearly 10 times more frequently in women. It has been suggested that tight-fitting shoes, especially high-heel and narrow-toed shoes, might increase the risk for bunion formation. Tight footwear certainly is a factor in precipitating the pain and swelling of bunions. Complaints of bunions are reported to be more prevalent in people who wear shoes than in barefoot people. Other risk factors for the development of bunions include abnormal formation of the bones of the foot at birth (congenital) and arthritic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, repetitive stresses to the foot can lead to bunion formation. Bunions are common in ballet dancers.
SymptomsWith Bunions, a person will have inflammation, swelling, and soreness on the side surface of the big toe. Corns most commonly are tender cone-shaped patches of dry skin on the top or side of the toes. Calluses will appear on high-pressure points of the foot as thick hardened patches of skin.
Looking at the problem area on the foot is the best way to discover a bunion. If it has the shape characteristic of a bunion, this is the first hint of a problem. The doctor may also look at the shape of your leg, ankle, and foot while you are standing, and check the range of motion of your toe and joints by asking you to move your toes in different directions A closer examination with weight-bearing X-rays helps your doctor examine the actual bone structure at the joint and see how severe the problem is. A doctor may ask about the types of shoes you wear, sports or activities (e.g., ballet) you participate in, and whether or not you have had a recent injury. This information will help determine your treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wearing the right shoes, using shoe inserts (orthoses) and padding, and taking painkillers can all help to ease your symptoms of a bunion. However, these treatments can?t cure a bunion or stop it getting worse. If you have severe pain or discomfort from a bunion, you may be advised to have an operation to correct it. One of the most important things you can do is to wear the right footwear. You should try to wear flat, wide-fitting shoes with laces or an adjustable strap that fits you properly. You may also want to place a bunion pad over your bunion to give it some protection from the pressure of your shoes. You can usually buy these pads from a pharmacy, or get them from your podiatrist or chiropodist. He or she may also recommend a shoe insert, which can be moulded specifically to your foot. Shoe inserts aim to reduce the pain of your bunion by improving how you walk. You can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help relieve the pain and inflammation of your bunion. Always follow the instructions in the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. Medicines give temporary relief but they won?t be able to cure your bunion or prevent it from getting worse. If you have a bunion as a result of underlying arthritis, your doctor may prescribe specific medicines to treat this.
If the above simple measures do not make you comfortable, an operation may improve the situation. An operation will not give you an entirely normal foot, but it will correct the deformity of the big toe and narrow your foot back towards a more desirable shape. There are a lot of different operations for bunions, depending on the severity of the deformity, the shape of your foot and whether arthritis has developed in the big toe joint. An orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in foot & ankle surgery can advise you on the best operation for your foot. However, an operation may not make your foot narrow enough to wear tight shoes, nor can it fully restore the strength of the big toe.
To minimize the chance of developing bunions, never force your feet into shoes that don?t fit. Choose a shoe that conforms to the shape of your foot. Opt for shoes with wider insteps, broad toes, and soft soles. Shoes that are short, tight, or sharply pointed should be avoided.