A bunion is a deformity of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint of the big toe in which the metatarsal bone shifts inward, away from the rest of the foot and the big toe shifts outward, towards the other toes. This results in a “crooked” big toe. As a result, the tissues around the MTP joint can become irritated and painful. A small fluid filled sac called a bursa sits on the inner side of the MTP joint. This bursa decreases friction between the skin and the underlying bone. It can also become irritated and painful.
High heels can exacerbate a potential bunion problem because they tip the body?s weight forward, forcing the toes into the front of the shoe. This may help to explain why bunions are 10 times more common in women than in men. People in occupations such as teaching and nursing, that involve a lot of standing and walking, are susceptible to bunions. Ballet dancers, whose feet suffer severe repetitive stress, are also amongst those who experience bunions. Women can sometimes develop bunions and other foot problems during pregnancy because hormonal changes loosen the ligaments and flatten the feet. Bunions are also associated with arthritis, which damages the cartilage within the joint.
SymptomsIf a foot bunion is developing, you may experience some of these symptoms. Bulge or bump on the outside of the base of your big toe. Swelling. Redness. Soreness. Thickening of the skin in that location. Corns or calluses. Limited movement of your big toe. Persistent or periodic pain. The pain you experience may be mild or severe. It may become increasingly difficult to walk in your normal shoes. The pressure on your other toes can cause your toenails to grow inward or your smaller toes to become bent.
People with bunions may be concerned about the changing appearance of their feet, but it is usually the pain caused by the condition that leads them to consult their doctor. The doctor will evaluate any symptoms experienced and examine the affected foot for joint enlargement, tissue swelling and/or tenderness. They will also assess any risk factors for the condition and will ask about family history. An x-ray of the foot is usually recommended so that the alignment of big toe joint can be assessed. This would also allow any other conditions that may be affecting the joint, such as arthritis, to be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
Your podiatrist can recommend exercises, orthoses (special devices inserted into shoes), shoe alterations or night splints (which hold toes straight over night) which may slow the progression of bunions in children. According to experts, ?conservative? measures such as these may help relieve symptoms, though there is no evidence they can correct the underlying deformity. Orthoses are designed to prevent the problem getting worse by decreasing any biomechanical causes of bunions. In other words, if the biomechanical theory is correct (i.e. if your bunions are caused by the way you walk), orthoses may help you walk in a way that doesn?t exacerbate the problem. But it won?t change the already established shape of your foot. For that, you need surgery.
Orthopaedic surgeons use many different surgical procedures to treat bunions. The common goal of these procedures is to realign the joint, relieve pain, and correct deformity. These procedures include repair of the Tendons and Ligaments Around the Big Toe. These tissues may be too tight on one side and too loose on the other, creating an imbalance that causes the big toe to drift toward the others. Often combined with an osteotomy, this procedure shortens the loose tissues and lengthens the tight ones. Removal of the damaged joint surfaces, followed by the insertion of screws, wires, or plates to hold the surfaces together until it heals. Used for patients with severe bunions, severe arthritis, and when other procedures have failed. Removal of the bump on the toe joint, used only for an enlargement of the bone with no drifting of the big toe. This procedure is seldom used because it rarely corrects the cause of the bunion. Removal of the damaged portion of the joint, used mainly for patients who are older, have had previous bunion surgery, or have severe arthritis. This creates a flexible “scar” joint. The surgical cutting and realignment of the joint. Your orthopaedic surgeon will choose the procedure best suited to your condition.