Bunions are bony protrusions located at the base of the big toe that develop when the toe is slanted inward or overlaps the next toe. They can be very painful. Bunions form when the movement of the big toe influences the angle of the bones in the foot. The changes gradually develop into the characteristic bump, which over time becomes more and more noticeable.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, but they tend to run in families. Wearing badly fitting shoes is thought to make bunions worse. It's also thought that bunions are more likely to occur in people with unusually flexible joints, which is why bunions sometimes occur in children. In some cases, certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, may also be responsible.
SymptomsThe 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.
Your doctor will ask questions about your past health and carefully examine your toe and joint. Some of the questions might be: When did the bunions start? What activities or shoes make your bunions worse? Do any other joints hurt? The doctor will examine your toe and joint and check their range of motion. This is done while you are sitting and while you are standing so that the doctor can see the toe and joint at rest and while bearing weight. X-rays are often used to check for bone problems or to rule out other causes of pain and swelling. Other tests, such as blood tests or arthrocentesis (removal of fluid from a joint for testing), are sometimes done to check for other problems that can cause joint pain and swelling. These problems might include gout , rheumatoid arthritis , or joint infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions can be treated conservatively (without surgery) using simple measures such as well-fitting shoes, orthoses simple painkillers and padding. Physiotherapy can help improve associated muscle imbalances. Such measures will not correct or even stop the deformity but they can help with symptoms. When non-surgical treatments prove insufficient, surgery can relieve your pain, correct any related foot deformity and help you resume your normal activities.
In 2010, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidance about a minimally invasive surgical procedure to treat bunions. The aim of the procedure is to repair the tilting of the big toe. The technique can be carried out under a local anaesthetic or a general anaesthetic, using X-rays or an endoscope for guidance. The type of endoscope used will be a long, thin, rigid tube with a light source and video camera at one end. One or more incisions will be made near the big toe so that bone-cutting instruments can be inserted. These will be used to remove the bunion and to divide one or more bones located at the front of the foot. Wires, screws or plates will be used to keep the divided bones in place. After the procedure, you may need to wear a plaster cast or dressing to keep your foot in the correct position until the bones have healed. You may be given a special surgical shoe that enables you to walk on your heel. As the procedure is relatively new, there's little in the way of reliable evidence regarding its safety or effectiveness.
Bunions often become painful if they are allowed to progress. But not all bunions progress. Many bunion problems can be managed without surgery. In general, bunions that are not painful do not need surgical correction. For this reason, orthopaedic surgeons do not recommend ?preventive? surgery for bunions that do not hurt, with proper preventive care, they may never become a problem.