The original definition of a bunion was a bursa (a fluid-filled sac) on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe. The bursa was caused by a chronic friction of the patient's first metatarsal bone (the bone to which the big toe attaches) and the shoe. Few people go by this definition any longer. Today most people consider a bunion to be the enlarged bone on the side of the foot that typically caused the bursa. Along with this bump, there is usually an associated mis-alignment of the big toe, with it leaning in towards the second toe. In medical jargon, the term for a bunion is "Hallux Abducto Valgus," or "HAV" for short. Though the condition is really slightly different, it may also be known as "Hallux Valgus." Bunions are usually a progressive problem, and can make it difficult to find shoes that fit. The condition is often quite uncomfortable, not only because of the pressure the shoes exert on the bump, but because of the other factors associated with bunions, which we shall discuss shortly. This is usually a progressive problem, and can make it difficult to find shoes that fit. The condition is often quite uncomfortable, not only because of the pressure the shoes exert on the bump, but because of the other factors associated with bunions, which we shall discuss shortly.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, but they tend to run in families. Wearing badly fitting shoes is thought to make bunions worse. It's also thought that bunions are more likely to occur in people with unusually flexible joints, which is why bunions sometimes occur in children. In some cases, certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, may also be responsible.
SymptomsBunions typically start out as a mild bump or outward bending of the big toe. Bunions at this stage are usually only a concern of appearance at this stage, and at this point they often don't hurt much. Over time, the ligaments that connect the bones of the toe stretch out, and the tendons attaching to the big toe gradually pull it farther and farther towards the second toe. Sometimes patients will find their first and second toes begin to press together too much, and they'll often get a painful corn between those toes. As the bunion progresses, the big toe may begin to ride on top of the second toe, or vice versa, creating a second deformity. Others will develop bump pain at the site of the bony enlargement on the side of the foot. A painful bursa may develop at that site. This is particularly true in tight shoes. Many patients also develop a painful callus beneath the foot. Capsulitis and other types of metatarsalgia may develop in the joints beneath these calluses, particularly in the second and third metatarsophalangeal joints (the joints in the ball of the foot). Over time, with the toe held in a crooked position for enough time, arthritis develops in the big toe joint. This will usually result in decreased range of motion of that joint (a condition known as "Hallux Limitis"), which as a result, often causes the patient to changes in the way a patient walks. Often the patient walks in an "out-toed", or duck-like, fashion, which very frequently causes secondary pain in the legs, knee, hip, and low back.
Most patients are diagnosed to have bunions from clinical history and examination. However, in some cases, X-rays will be performed to determine the extent of damage to the joint. Furthermore, it will enable the treating doctor to decide on the best course of management of the patient.
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).
Surgery for bunions usually isn't done unless you have already tried other treatment and it did not relieve your pain. Other treatment includes wearing shoes with lots of room for your toes and using pads and supports in your shoe for protection and comfort. Surgery may be right for you if your toe is too painful, if your bunion is very big, or if you can't easily do your daily activities. It's not clear how well bunion surgery works or which kind of surgery is best. How well the surgery works depends on how bad your bunion is, the type of surgery you have, and your surgeon's experience. Your expectations will play a big role in how you feel about the results of surgery. If you want surgery mainly to improve the way your foot looks, you may be disappointed.