A bunion (from the Latin 'bunion', meaning enlargement) is a protuberance of bone around the big toe joint. The enlargement can also occur at the outside of the foot, at the base of the little toe. This is called a tailor's bunion or bunionette. As a bunion deformity progresses with time, an enlargement increases in size behind the big toe, making shoe wear difficult and painful. Consequently, the big toe will shift position and move over or under the toes next to the big toe. Bunions can occur at any age between childhood and the golden years. The occurrence of bunions are far more prominent in women than men. Ill fitting narrow shoes and shoes with heels tend to aggravate bunions and cause them to occur at a higher incidence.
Hereditary and shoe gear are probably the most likely causes. Tight pointy shoes (and high heels) may promote the formation of a bunion. A bunion may develop rapidly or develop slowly over time. Some people have bunions in their teens while others only develop a bunion later in life. Bunions come in a variety of sizes - from small to severe. In some cases, the big toe may push against the second toe, and may result in pain and a hammer toe, or progress onto a severe disfiguring foot deformity. Depending on your overall health, symptoms and severity of the bunion, the condition may be treated conservatively and/or with surgery.
The most obvious symptoms of a bunion are. Pain in the area of the MTP joint, the joint where your big toe connects to your foot. Bending of the big toe in towards the other toes. An enlarged bump of bone or tissue at the MTP joint. Each symptom can range in degree from small to severe. Sometimes the pain can be sufficient to make it difficult to walk in normal shoes. Other symptoms may include. Swelling and inflammation of the skin around the MTP joint. Thickening of the skin in the area of the joint. Restricted motion in your big toe. Pressure from the inward bending of your big toe can affect your other toes, leading to corns on your smaller toes. Ingrown toenails on the smaller toes. Development of hammertoes in the other toes. Calluses on the bottom of your foot. If you have any of these symptoms, especially pain, displacement of your big toe or development of a bulge, you should consider consulting your physician. Even if you're not significantly bothered by some of these symptoms, bunions tend to continue getting bigger and more serious over time and should be taken care of before they do so.
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
Bunions may be treated with proper shoes and corrective inserts such as toe spacers, bunion or toe separators, as well as bunion cushions and splints. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed to remove the bony enlargement of the first metatarsal bone, realigning the bone, or straightening the big toe.
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.
The best protection against developing bunions is to protect and care for your feet every day. Avoid tight and narrow-fitting shoes. Limit your use of high heels. Wear comfortable shoes with adequate space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Getting treatment for very flat or very high-arched feet (if you are experiencing symptoms) will give your feet the proper support and help maintain stability and balance.