The common bunion is a localized area of enlargement of the inner portion of the joint at the base of the big toe. The enlargement actually represents additional bone formation, often in combination with a misalignment of the big toe. The misalignment causes the big toe to move outward (medically termed hallux valgus deformity). The normal position of the big toe (straight forward) becomes outward directed toward the smaller toes. The enlarged joint at the base of the big toe (the first metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTP joint) can become inflamed with redness, tenderness, and pain. A small fluid-filled sac (bursa) adjacent to the joint can also become inflamed (bursitis), leading to additional swelling, redness, and pain. A less common bunion is located at the joint at the base of the smallest (fifth) toe. This bunion is sometimes referred to as a tailor's bunion.
The most important causative factor is poor fitting footwear. This accounts for an higher incidence among women than men. Family history of bunions. Abnormal foot function, excessive pronation. Poor foot mechanics, such as excessive pronation (rolling inwards of the foot), causes a medial force which exerts pressure and can lead to the formation of bunions. Rheumatoid or osteoarthritis. Genetic and neuromuscular diseases, which can result in a muscular imbalance such as Down's syndrome. If one leg is longer then the other, the longer leg is more inclined to develop a bunion. If the ligaments in the feet are very weak. In some cases, bunions can occur due to trauma or injury to the feet.
The most common symptoms associated with this condition are pain on the side of the foot just behind the great toe. A red painful bump is usually present. Pain is usually brought on with walking or sports. Shoes don't cause bunions but will typically aggravate them. Stiff leather shoes or shoes with a tapered toe box are the prime offenders. This is why bunion pain is most common in women whose shoes have a pointed toe box. The bunion site will often be slightly swollen and red from the constant rubbing and irritation of a shoe. Occasionally, corns can develop between the 1st and 2nd toe from the pressure the toes rubbing against each other.
Bunions are readily apparent, you can see the prominence at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate your condition, the Podiatrist may arrange for x-rays to be taken to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred. Because bunions are progressive, they don't go away, and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike, some bunions progress more rapidly than others. There is no clear-cut way to predict how fast a bunion will get worse. The severity of the bunion and the symptoms you have will help determine what treatment is recommended for you.
Non Surgical Treatment
Nonsurgical treatments that may relieve the pain and pressure of a bunion include changing shoes. Wear roomy, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes. Padding and taping or splinting. Your doctor can help you tape and pad your foot in a normal position. This can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain. Medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve) can help you control the pain of a bunion. Cortisone injections also can be helpful. Shoe inserts. Padded shoe inserts can help distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Over-the-counter arch supports can provide relief for some people, although others may require prescription orthotic devices. Applying ice. Icing your bunion after you've been on your feet too long can help relieve soreness and inflammation.
Bunions can cause pain and difficulty wearing certain shoes. When simple treatments don't relieve your symptoms, surgery may be considered for treatment of the bunion. What are the signs that surgery may be the right treatment for your bunion? In general, surgery is recommended only when pain from the bunion prevents a patient from wearing normal shoes. There is a common misconception that surgical treatments for a bunion are better and quicker than non-surgical treatments. Unfortunately, patients who rush into surgery may have unrealistic expectations, and may be unsatisfied with surgery.
There are some steps that may help prevent, or at least slow, the progression of bunions. Avoid shoes with a narrow toe box. If your foot flattens excessively, make sure you wear supportive shoes, and if necessary, get custom orthotics from your podiatrist. See your podiatrist at the first signs or symptoms of a bunion deformity, as early treatment may stop or slow its progression.