Bunions involve boney prominences and repositioning of the joints at the base of the big toes. Bunions most commonly affect the inner foot at the base of the big toe but also can affect the outside of the foot at the base of the little toe, referred to as a bunionette or tailor's bunion. Bunions most commonly affect women. Bunions may or may not cause symptoms. Treatment of bunions can include rest, icing, alteration offootwear, foot supports (orthotics), medications, steroid injections, and or surgery.
Essentially, bunions are caused by a disruption of the normal interworking of the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons that comprise your feet, often from wearing shoes that squeeze the toes or place too much weight-bearing stress on them. However, it should be pointed out that other causes or factors in the development of bunions can include flat feet or low arches in the feet, some forms of arthritis, problems with foot mechanics, foot injuries and neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy. Arthritis in the MTP joint, for example, can degrade the cartilage that protects it, and other problems may cause ligaments to become loose. Pronation, walking in a way that your foot rolls inwards, increases your risk for developing bunions.
SymptomsMany people with bunions suffer from discomfort and pain from the constant irritation, rubbing, and friction of the enlargement against shoes. The skin over the toe becomes red and tender. Because this joint flexes with every step, the bigger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Over time, bursitis or arthritis may set in, the skin on the bottom of the foot may become thicker, and everyday walking may become difficult-all contributing to chronic bunion pain.
Although bunions are usually obvious from the pain and unusual shape of the toe, further investigation is often advisable. Your doctor will usually send you for X-rays to determine the extent of the deformity. Blood tests may be advised to see if some type of arthritis could be causing the pain. Based on this evaluation, your doctor can determine whether you need orthopaedic shoes, medication, surgery or other treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
The non-invasive treatments for bunions are many and include changes in footwear, icing the sore area, over the counter pain medications, orthotic shoe inserts, and weight management. If these conservative measures fail to arrest your pain and discomfort, your foot and ankle surgeon may recommend a bunionectomy or similar surgical procedure, depending on your condition.
Pain is the commonest indication for bunion surgery. You may also notice redness and inflammation and usually this means that the bunion has progressed to a point that it will not respond to simple modification in shoe wear. Eventually that major joint of the big toe will become stiff and this makes it difficult for activities such as climbing stairs and sports.
Make better shoe choices. If you?re a woman, avoid high-heeled footwear whenever possible (at the very least, choose shoes with heels lower than two inches), and make sure all your footwear has a wide, deep toe box. Whether man or woman, if you?re trying on shoes and your toes feel ?squished? or crowded by a particular shoe, reject that style and try another, or go for a larger size. You don?t need to invite trouble. In general, shoes that come to a point at the toe are bad news, as they tend to push the toes together into an overlapping pattern. Shoes with rocker soles will unload pressure on the bunion area. Examine your feet regularly. Note any redness, swelling or discoloration. Flex your toes and check for any stiffness. If there is any, think back to what you?ve worn or done in the past few days. If the condition persists more than a few days, or worsens, a visit to the podiatric physician is in order.