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.
Causes of bunions are foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders, or congenital deformities. People who suffer from flat feet or low arches are also prone to developing these problems, as are arthritic patients and those with inflammatory joint disease. Occupations that place undue stress on the feet are also a factor; ballet dancers, for instance, often develop the condition. Wearing shoes that are too tight or cause the toes to be squeezed together is also a common factor, one that explains the high prevalence of the disorder among women.
Bunions or hallux valgus tend to give pain predominantly from the metatarsal head on the inner border of the foot. The bunion tends to be painful mainly when in enclosed shoes and so is often more symptomatic in winter. As the front part of the foot splays and the great toe moves across towards the 2nd toe a bunion can also produce pain from the 2nd toe itself. The pain which a bunion produces on the 2nd toe is either due to direct rubbing between the great toe and the 2nd toe, a hammer toe type deformity produced due to crowding of the 2nd toe by the bunion and the 3rd toe.The hammer toe will either be painful from its top aspect where it rubs directly on shoe wear or its under surface in the area of the 2nd metatarsal head. This is made prominent and pushed to the sole of the foot by the 2nd toe rising upwards and driving the metatarsal head downwards.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose a bunion by asking about your symptoms and examining your feet. You may also have blood tests to rule out any other medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, although this is rare. Your doctor may refer you to a podiatrist or chiropodist (healthcare professionals who specialise in conditions that affect the feet).
Non Surgical Treatment
When a bunion first begins to develop, take good care of your feet. Wear wide-toed shoes. This can often solve the problem and prevent you from needing more treatment. Wear felt or foam pads on your foot to protect the bunion, or devices called spacers to separate the first and second toes. These are available at drugstores. Try cutting a hole in a pair of old, comfortable shoes to wear around the house.
Bunion surgery is an option for those who have persisting pain and the condition is worsening. Surgery on a bunion can correct the bone deformity, increase function and relieve pain. Bunion surgery should not be considered lightly, the surgery is often successful but there is a rate of surgical failure. The big toe can move back into its previous place if the patient does not follow instructions, which will result in the pain returning. The surgical failure for bunions can be reduced greatly if activity restrictions are followed and proper footwear is worn after surgery.
If the diagnosis is made early on, such as in preadolescence, bunion development can be slowed and in some cases arrested with the proper supportive shoe gear and custom functional shoe inserts (orthotics). Avoidance of certain athletic activities with improper shoe fit and toe pressure can prevent the symptoms that occur with bunions.