Bunions are one of the more serious conditions that can affect foot health. A bunion is actually a bone deformity of the big toe, where the joint at the base and side of the toe is enlarged, forcing the toe out of place. Left untreated, bunions worsen over time. The big toe angles in toward the rest of the toe, and can overlap the third toe (a condition known as Hallux Valgus). Or, it may move toward the second toe and twist or rotate (Hallus Abducto Valgus). Bunions can also lead to deformities like hammertoes. Bunions cause discomfort and pain, because the enlargement constantly rubs against footwear. The skin of the toe becomes red and tender. The larger a bunion grows, the more painful it is to walk. People with bunions can develop thickening skin on the bottom of the foot, bursitis or arthritis, and chronic pain.
In most cases, bunions are caused by genetics and incorrect foot mechanics. The foot may flatten too much, forcing the toe joint to move beyond normal range. In some cases, arthritis or an injury produces a bunion. In other cases people are simply born with extra bone near a toe joint. Tight fitting shoes further complicate the condition. Shoes such as high heels are particularly damaging to the toes. These shoes have a sloping foot piece and a narrow toe box. The slope causes the front of the foot to be pushed with force into the narrow toe box. The narrow toe box causes the toes to become squeezed together. Depending on factors such as duration of wearing constraining footwear, skeletal maturity, and individual factors, the toes can be- come permanently adapted to the new position and lead to the formation of a bunion. Once a bunion forms, the mechanics of the feet and toes are altered. Tendons begin to pull the toe into an abnormal position, and the problem tends to progress over time.
Since the pain from a bunion is always aggravated by shoe wear, the symptoms will often depend on the type and size of shoes worn. The perception of pain or discomfort that people experience is quite varied. There are some individuals who have small bunions that are very uncomfortable. This limits their ability to wear shoes comfortably. On the other hand, some individuals may have quite significant deformities that are annoying but do not limit their activities in anyway.
Although bunions are usually obvious from the pain and unusual shape of the toe, further investigation is often advisable. Your doctor will usually send you for X-rays to determine the extent of the deformity. Blood tests may be advised to see if some type of arthritis could be causing the pain. Based on this evaluation, your doctor can determine whether you need orthopaedic shoes, medication, surgery or other treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Early treatment of bunions is centered on providing symptomatic relief. Switching to a shoe with a rounder, deeper toe box and made of a softer more pliable leather will often provide immediate relief. The use of pads and cushions to reduce the pressure over the bone can also be helpful for mild bunion deformities. Functional foot orthotics, by controlling abnormal pronation, reduces the deforming forces leading to bunions in the first place. These may help reduce pain in mild bunion deformities and slow the progression of the deformity. When these conservative measures fail to provided adequate relief, surgical correction is indicated.
Procedures can range from shaving off excess bone to restructuring and fusing the big toe. For mild conditions, you may simply need the connective tissues holding your big toe to be tightened so they hold the digit in the correct position. More advanced bunions will need more manipulation and involved remedies. Cuts in the bone tissue can help our specialists realign the toe. You may need to have the damaged portion of the joint removed. In severe cases, the joint may be fused to prevent it from moving out of position again. If your bunion created other foot complications, like hammertoes, our specialists may correct those during the procedure as well.