A bunion is a bony prominence on the side of the foot, at the base of the big toe joint. This enlargement of the joint, spurring, bump or lump can be aggravated by sports and tight shoes. There is progressive movement of the big toe outward, toward the other toes. As the ?bump? gets bigger, shoes can increase pressure on the base of the big toe causing more and more discomfort or pain. The term Hallux Valgus is the medical name for this condition.
Heredity and shoe gear are probably the most likely reason for you to develop a bunion. Bunions occur gradually over time. Tight and/or pointy shoes that crowd the toes may result in a bunion. High heels are also suggested to cause bunions as well. See Causes of Bunions.
In addition to the typical bump, signs of bunions can include red, calloused skin along the foot at the base of the big toe. With bunions, you may also develop calluses on the big toe, sores between the toes, ingrown toenail, and restricted motion of the toe. Some bunions are small and painless and some are large and extremely painful. Pressure from shoes worsens the problem.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Long-term treatment of bunions must be directed towards re-balancing the foot, so that we no longer walk with our weight forced on to the inner border of the foot. This is accomplished by controlling and reducing pronation with the use of a high quality arch support or custom made orthotics. These devices comfortably re-balance the feet and overcome pronation. This reduces the abnormal weight forces on the big toe and its metatarsal head, allowing the feet to function normally. As a result, the deformity should not worsen, and the pain should gradually subside. If the foot is not re-balanced, the deformity and pain will become worse.
There are many different surgical procedures that can be performed. The decision to perform one type of surgery or another is based upon the extent and magnitude of the bunion deformity, the presence of arthritis in the big toe joint, and the space between the first and second metatarsals, which is called the intermetatarsal angle. It is very rare that a bunion can be treated by simply shaving down the bump of the bone. Invariably, the deformity will recur and both the bunion and the hallux valgus will return. Therefore, the shaving of the bunion, called an exostectomy, is performed in conjunction with a cut of the first metatarsal bone (which is called an osteotomy).