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 a misalignment of the big toe joint (metatarsal phalangeal joint) and, in some cases, additional bone formation. The misalignment causes the big toe to point outward (medically termed hallux valgus deformity) toward the smaller toes. This deformity is progressive and will increase with time. 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 more deep joint pain may occur as localized arthritis develops in later stages of the deformity. 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 or bunionette.
Bunions are most often caused by faulty mechanics of the foot. The deformity runs in families, but it is the foot type that is hereditary, not the bunion.Certain foot types make a person prone to developing a bunion. Injury can be a cause, especially if just one foot is involved. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won?t actually cause bunions in the first place, it can make the deformity progressively worse. That means you may expererince symptoms sooner.
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 - 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
There are a number of treatment options for bunions. Non-surgical treatments are usually tried first, including painkillers, orthotics (insoles) and bunion pads. However, these can only help to reduce the symptoms of bunions, such as pain. They don't improve the appearance of your foot.
Recent advances in surgical techniques have led to very high success rates for bunion surgery. In most cases the patient can walk immediately after surgery without crutches. As well most patients find the surgery to be virtually pain free. Almost all bunion surgery is done as an outpatient at a surgery center. Most bunion surgery is performed with a local anesthetic block and IV sedation (twilight sleep). After the procedure you will be moved to the recovery room for about an hour. You will then be ready to go home.
To help prevent bunions, select your style and size of shoes wisely. Choose shoes with a wide toe area and a half-inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Shoes also should conform to the shape of your feet without causing too much pressure.