Hallux valgus, often referred to as “a bunion,” is a deformity of the big toe. The toe tilts over towards the smaller toes and a bony lump appears on the inside of the foot. (A bony lump on the top of the big toe joint is usually due to a different condition, called hallux rigidus.) Sometimes a soft fluid swelling develops over the bony lump. The bony lump is the end of the “knuckle-bone” of the big toe (the first metatarsal bone) which becomes exposed as the toe tilts out of place.
Bunions result from the long bone in the foot (metatarsal) and the big-toe bone becoming misaligned. The causes are likely to be a combination of genetics, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and the way that we walk or run. Arthritis sufferers are also prone to bunions.
SymptomsBunions may or may not cause symptoms. A frequent symptom is foot pain in the involved area when walking or wearing shoes that is relieved by resting. A bunion causes enlargement of the base of the big toe and is usually associated with positioning of the big toe toward the smaller toes. This leads to intermittent or chronic pain at the base of the big toe. Bunions that cause marked pain are often associated with swelling of the soft tissues, redness, and local tenderness. It is important to note that, in post-pubertal men and post-menopausal women, pain at the base of the big toe can be caused by gout and gouty arthritis that is similar to the pain caused by bunions.
Diagnosis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor. This will usually include a discussion about shoe wear and the importance of shoes in the development and treatment of the condition. X-rays will probably be suggested. This allows your doctor to measure several important angles made by the bones of the feet to help determine the appropriate treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions can develop at any time. Although bunions often require no medical treatment you should consult your family doctor/chiropodist/podiatrist. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of your bunion and the amount of pain it causes you. Although they don’t always cause problems, bunions are permanent unless surgically corrected. If the cushioning sac of fluid (bursa) over the affected joint becomes inflamed (bursitis), a bunion can be very painful and interfere with your normal activities. Bunions may get larger and more painful, making nonsurgical treatment less effective. Apply a non-medicated bunion pad around the bony bump. If a bunion becomes inflamed or painful, apply an ice pack two to three times daily to help reduce swelling. Wear shoes with a wide and deep toe box. Avoid shoes with heels higher than 2 inches (5.1 centimeters).
If surgery is required to correct a symptomatic bunion, there are several procedures that may be used, depending on the size and degree of the deformity. For mild deformities, a simple shaving of the bony prominence may suffice. At the same time, the tissues on the inner, or medial, side of the joint are tightened to hold the great toe in a more neutral alignment. When only the bone is shaved, this procedure is commonly referred to as a ?Silver? procedure. When the bone is shaved and the soft tissues tightened, this is called a ?modified McBride? procedure.
Bunions often become painful if they are allowed to progress. But not all bunions progress. Many bunion problems can be managed without surgery. In general, bunions that are not painful do not need surgical correction. For this reason, orthopaedic surgeons do not recommend ?preventive? surgery for bunions that do not hurt, with proper preventive care, they may never become a problem.