A bunion looks like a bump on the inside of the foot where the big toe joins the foot. Over time, the bunion gets worse. The big toe starts to lean toward neighboring toes instead of pointing straight ahead. (The scientific name for this is hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus.) The bump is a sign that the bones of the foot are out of alignment. While shoes with high heels or pointed toes may cause the joint to ache, they don't cause bunions. Most often they are due to an inherited foot structure. The tendons and ligaments that hold bones and muscles together at the joint are not working as they should. This structure makes it more likely that a person will develop a bunion.
Bunions are more common in women than men. The problem can run in families. People born with abnormal bones in their feet are more likely to form a bunion. Wearing narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes may lead to the development of a bunion. The condition may become painful as the bump gets worse. Extra bone and a fluid-filled sac grow at the base of the big toe.
The signs and symptoms of a bunion include a bulging bump on the outside of the base of your big toe, swelling, redness or soreness around your big toe joint, Thickening of the skin at the base of your big toe, Corns or calluses, these often develop where the first and second toes overlap, persistent or intermittent pain, restricted movement of your big toe. Although bunions often require no medical treatment, see your doctor or a doctor who specializes in treating foot disorders (podiatrist or orthopedic foot specialist) if you have persistent big toe or foot pain, a visible bump on your big toe joint, decreased movement of your big toe or foot, difficulty finding shoes that fit properly because of a bunion.
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
In the early stages of the formation of a bunion, soaking feet in warm water can provide temporary relief. The best way to alleviate the pain associated with bunions is to wear properly fitting shoes. Shoes designed with a high, wide toe box (toe area) are recommended for people suffering from forefoot disorders, such as bunions. Shoes with rocker soles will unload pressure to the bunion area. Orthotics are also recommended for this condition to provide extra comfort, support, and protection. Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products designed to accommodate and relieve bunions such as bunion shields, bunion night splints, and bunion bandages. These conservative treatments can limit the progression of the bunion formation, relieve pain and provide a healthy environment for the foot.
There are a range of different surgeries that can be performed with the goal of realigning the joint and relieving pain ranging from shaving off part of the bone to cutting and realigning the bone with pins and screws. Depending on the surgery full recovery can take months and require you to stay off the foot. One new type of surgery, called a tightrope, involves attaching a wire to the bone to try and pull it back into alignment, but be wary of this procedure because there have not been any long-term outcome studies yet.
Shop for shoes that possess a removable liner, or insole, and stand on the liner after you have removed it from your shoe. This is an effective method to see if your shoe is wide enough in the forefoot to accommodate your bunion. If your bunion and forefoot are wider than the insole, your shoe will squeeze and constrict your bunion and create the symptoms that define this health problem. The insole should also be wide enough to fully accommodate your big toe when it points outward, away from your other toes.