A bunion (also called Hallux Valgus) is a painful swelling caused by deformity of the big toe. As this swelling is caused by a bone it can be very unforgiving in shoes, which can rub on it causing pain, particularly formal foot shoes or high heels. Arthritis, or wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes over a period of many years, may increase the risk of bunions. However, they can have other causes. Bunions are more common in women and sometimes run in families.
Bunions are not hereditary, but they do tend to run in families, usually because of a faulty foot structure. Foot injuries, neuromuscular problems, flat feet, and pronated feet can contribute to their formation. It is estimated that bunions occur in 33 percent of the population in Western countries.
Patients with bunions will often display pain over the prominent bump on the inside of their forefoot (the medial eminence?). However, they may also have pain under the ball of the foot (under the area near the base of the second toe). Symptoms can vary in severity from none at all to severe discomfort aggravated by standing and walking. There is no direct correlation between the size of the bunion and the patient?s symptoms. Some patients with severe bunion deformities have minimal symptoms, while patients with mild bunion deformities may have significant symptoms. Symptoms are often exacerbated by restrictive shoe wear, particularly shoes with a narrow toe box or an uncomfortable, stiff, restraining upper.
Clinical findings are usually specific. Acute circumferential intense pain, warmth, swelling, and redness suggest gouty arthritis (see Gout) or infectious arthritis (see Acute Infectious Arthritis), sometimes mandating examination of synovial fluid. If multiple joints are affected, gout or another systemic rheumatic disease should be considered. If clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritic synovitis is equivocal, x-rays are taken. Suggestive findings include joint space narrowing and bony spurs extending from the metatarsal head or sometimes from the base of the proximal phalanx. Periarticular erosions (Martel sign) seen on imaging studies suggest gout.
Non Surgical Treatment
Custom orthoses or over-the-counter insoles to aid big toe joint function, help control over-pronation and maintain proper alignment of the bones in the feet. Properly sized, supportive footwear that are torsionally stable (can?t be folded or twisted easily) and that feature a good ?rocker profile? (curved from the ball to tips of the toes) help to reduce stress on the joint when walking. Footwear modifications to expand the area of the shoe surrounding the bunion to relieve pressure. Physical therapy modalities include rest, icing and massage. Injections, surgery and other treatment options, please consult your medical doctor for information and/or referral to a podiatrist or other foot and ankle specialist.
There are dozens and dozens of types of surgery designed to address bunion deformities, and each have different indications. But in short, some procedures simply address an enlarged bump. Some simply address a crooked big toe. But in order to slow the return of the bunion deformity, most procedures aim to realign the big toe with the bone behind it, the “first metatarsal.” This would also realign the joint surfaces between those two bones. But even if the surgery is designed to realign the big toe, there are still many choices to consider. Some procedures are meant for a short first metatarsal and others for a long first metatarsal. Some are best when the foot is very unstable, others are based on the severity of the arthritis present. In fact, there are many, many factors to consider when designing a procedure to address a particular patient’s foot, to the extent that what’s involved in a bunion surgery not only varies from patient to patient–the procedures often vary even from a patient’s right foot to the left foot.
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