A bunion is a deformity of the big toe. A bunion is a toe that points at a sideways angle towards your second toe. There is also a characteristic bump on the inner side of the foot. As the bunion becomes more prominent, bunion pain can develop. The medical term for a foot bunion is hallux valgus.
The most important causative factor is poor fitting footwear. This accounts for an higher incidence among women than men. Family history of bunions. Abnormal foot function, excessive pronation. Poor foot mechanics, such as excessive pronation (rolling inwards of the foot), causes a medial force which exerts pressure and can lead to the formation of bunions. Rheumatoid or osteoarthritis. Genetic and neuromuscular diseases, which can result in a muscular imbalance such as Down's syndrome. If one leg is longer then the other, the longer leg is more inclined to develop a bunion. If the ligaments in the feet are very weak. In some cases, bunions can occur due to trauma or injury to the feet.
A bulging bump on the outside of the base of your big toe. Swelling, redness or soreness around your big toe joint aggravated by footwear. Red, calloused skin along the inside edge of the big toe. Corns or calluses under the ball of the foot or where the first and second toes overlap. Persistent or intermittent pain. Restricted movement of your big toe.
Generally, observation is adequate to diagnose a bunion, as the bump is obvious on the side of the foot or base of the big toe. However, your physician may order X-rays that will show the extent of the deformity of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
If abnormal pronation is identified and corrected early, the formation of a bunion can be prevented. However, if the bunion has already developed and cannot be tolerated by the patient, surgery is necessary. Amputation of the big toe ceased to be a treatment for bunions many generations ago, but only in the past few years have surgical procedures been developed to incorporate the realignment of the bone with the correction of the abnormal motion that led to deformity.
Research shows that 85% of people who have bunion corrections are satisfied with the results. However, a number of problems can arise. The big toe is usually stiffer than before. For most people this does not matter, but for athletes or dancers it is very important. As mentioned before, the big toe is slightly weaker with a bunion, and this transfers weight onto the ball of the foot. After bunion surgery, this transfer of weight can increase. Therefore, if you have pain under the ball of the foot ("metatarsalgia") it may be worse after bunion surgery, and it may also develop for the first time. Careful surgical technique can reduce this risk, but it cannot avoid it completely. Most people who develop metatarsalgia are comfortable with a simple insole in the shoe but occasionally surgery is required. In some people the big toe slowly tilts back toward the original position and occasionally this is bad enough to need to have the operation redone. On the other hand, the toe can tilt the other way, though much more rarely. Again, occasionally this is bad enough to need to have the operation redone. Infections in the wound, plaster problems and minor damage to the nerves of the toe can occur in any foot surgery. Usually these are minor problems that get better quickly. This may sound like a lot of possible problems, but in fact most people do not get them and are satisfied with their bunion surgery. However, this may help you to see how important it is to have any bunion surgery carried out by a properly trained and experienced foot and ankle surgeon.