A bunion is the enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe. It occurs as a result of the misalignment of the bones of the big toe. This leads to stretching of the ligaments and tendons around the big toe joint and causes soft tissue over the joint to become inflamed and painful. There may be additional bone formation (exostosis) in the joint and the skin around the joint may become red and tender. Over time the cartilage in the joint can break down, leading to arthritis.
Bunions most commonly affect women. Some studies report that bunions 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. Bunions are reported to be more prevalent in people who wear shoes than in barefoot people. While the precise causes are not known, there also seems to be inherited (genetic) factors that predispose to the development of bunions, especially when they occur in younger individuals. Other risk factors for the development of bunions include abnormal formation of the bones of the foot at birth (congenital), nerve conditions that affect the foot, rheumatoid arthritis, and injury to the foot. Bunions are common in ballet dancers.
Patients with bunions will often display pain over the prominent bump on the inside of their forefoot (the medial eminence?). However, they may also have pain under the ball of the foot (under the area near the base of the second toe). Symptoms can vary in severity from none at all to severe discomfort aggravated by standing and walking. There is no direct correlation between the size of the bunion and the patient?s symptoms. Some patients with severe bunion deformities have minimal symptoms, while patients with mild bunion deformities may have significant symptoms. Symptoms are often exacerbated by restrictive shoe wear, particularly shoes with a narrow toe box or an uncomfortable, stiff, restraining upper.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
You can try over-the-counter remedies like pads to stop them rubbing, or take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if they play up. Devices that fit into your shoe, called orthotics, or splints that you wear at night, can slow the progression of bunions. If these don't help and the bunion is causing a painful and substantial deformity that?s seriously limiting your footwear, your GP will probably refer you to see a podiatrist, medical professionals who specialise in feet. They can give further advice about non-invasive treatments and also refer you for an operation, either with a podiatric or orthopaedic (bone) surgeon, ultimately the only thing that can correct the gnarly blighters. You can visit a podiatrist privately, which will cost anything from ?140-?200. But Mike O?Neill, spokesperson for the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists, suggest always going via your GP, who will know the best qualified. Such is the complexity of the bone structure of the foot, there are more than 130 different surgical procedures for bunions. One person?s op may be very different from another?s, so be wary of sounding out a friend about theirs.
Surgery isn't recommended unless a bunion causes you frequent pain. A bunionectomy, like other types of surgery, is not without risk. Additionally, you may still have pain or you could develop a new bunion in your big toe joint after surgery. Consider trying conservative treatment before having a bunionectomy.If you have an underlying mechanical fault,surgery will only correct the aesthetical nature of your bunion for a short period.So therefore surgery is not recommended.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing bunions is to wear shoes that fit properly. Shoes that are too tight or have high heels can force your toes together. Bunions are rare in populations that don?t wear shoes. Make sure your shoes are the correct size and that there's enough room to move your toes freely. It's best to avoid wearing shoes with high heels or pointed toes.