A bunion (a.k.a Hallux Valgus) is a common foot condition associated with a prominent bump on the inside of the forefoot (see Figure 1). The word bunion? comes from the Greek root for the word turnip. Bunions can lead to discomfort over the prominence, especially if patients wear tight fitting shoes. It is common for bunions to run in family? and gradually increase over time. The vast majority of bunions can be managed successfully with basic non-operative treatment. Surgery is reserved for patients who have persistent symptoms in spite of appropriate non-operative treatment.
Bunions are a common problem that can cause foot pain and difficulty wearing shoes. Bunions occur in about 30% of the population of most Western countries. They are seen most commonly in women and become more common as people get older. Patients with bunions generally have one of two problems that can cause pain. As the big toe becomes more and more angled (pointing toward the other toes), the base of the toe becomes more and more prominent, forming the bunion. The bunion forms in part because of the new angle of the toe, and in part due to inflammation over the bunion surface. As the inflammation worsens, people can experience pain with shoe wear and walking. The big toe may eventually come to lie over, or more commonly under, the second toe. This may cause further irritation while wearing shoes and more pain. The second toe of patients who have bunions commonly forms a hammer toe.
Bunions starts as the big toe begins to deviate, developing a firm bump on the inside edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe. Initially, at this stage the bunion may not be painful. Later as the toes deviate more the bunion can become painful, there may be redness, some swelling, or pain at or near the joint. The pain is most commonly due to two things, it can be from the pressure of the footwear on the bunion or it can be due to an arthritis like pain from the pressure inside the joint. The motion of the joint may be restricted or painful. A hammer toe of the second toe is common with bunions. Corns and calluses can develop on the bunion, the big toe and the second toe due to the alterations in pressure from the footwear. The pressure from the great toe on the other toes can also cause corns to develop on the outside of the little toe or between the toes. The change in pressure on the toe may predispose to an ingrown nail.
Bunions are readily apparent - the prominence is visible at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate the condition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays 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. Once your surgeon has evaluated your bunion, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.
Non Surgical Treatment
Apply a commercial bunion pad around the bony prominence, use only non-medicated pads. Wear shoes with a wide and deep toe box. You should be able to "dimple" the leather over your bunion. Avoid all high heeled shoes. If your bunion becomes painful red, and swollen try elevating your foot and applying ice for about 20 minuets every hour. If symptoms persist, consult your podiatrist or physician.
The primary goal of bunion surgery is to relieve the pain associated with the deformity. This is accomplished by correcting the underlying abnormal metatarsal position by realigning it toward the second toe. Removing excessive bone formation on the bunion "bump", releasing the soft tissue tightness which is pulling the big toe towards the second toe. Tightening the soft tissues which are overly stretched on the bump side of the joint. Re-establish the correct alignment of the cartilage surfaces. Move the sesamoid bones into correct alignment. Realign the great toe. Bunion surgery procedures are based on many factors, including health, age and lifestyle of the patient. However, a critical factor in procedure choice is the grading of the bunion deformity.