A bunion is an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the base of the big toe. The big toe may turn toward the second toe. The tissues around the joint may be swollen and tender. A bony bump at the base of the little toe is called a bunionette or tailor's bunion. The little toe also bends inward, and the joint swells or enlarges.
Bunions can be caused by improper footwear. Genetics. Foot injuries. Congenital deformities. Medical conditions such as arthritis. Stress on feet. Bunions are mainly caused by genetics. The bunion itself is not inherited, but the person?s hereditary foot type and gait pattern makes them more prone to developing bunions.You can also begin to develop bunionsby wearing shoes that are too tight or too small. When you wear shoes of this nature, your toes are squeezed together. Bunions are not caused by crowding of the toes, but wearing tight shoes can worsen the condition and cause symptoms to appear sooner. Some people are born with birth defects that put them at higher risk for developing bunions.
Signs and symptoms of a bunion include the base of the big toe is swollen and sticks out. The big toe is often bent towards the other toes, and sometimes the second toe is pushed to overlap the third toe. Skin around the big toe joint is red and sore. Thickened skin at the base of the big toe. Pain in the big toe or foot. Wearing shoes is painful. Pain or difficulty when walking.
Generally, observation is adequate to diagnose a bunion, as the bump is obvious on the side of the foot or base of the big toe. However, your physician may order X-rays that will show the extent of the deformity of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
Patients should immediately cease using improperly fitted shoes. Footwear selection should have a wide and roomy toebox to accommodate the full width of the foot. If the problem is the over-pronation, the patient should be fitted with orthotics and can expect a slow recovery from pain over a period of months. Orthotics will not cause the physical deformity to regress, but will simply arrest any further progression and likely stop the pain. It is important to note however, that when bunions are severe and require surgery, the bunion can be corrected, but will develop again unless the root cause of over-pronation is corrected. If over-pronation is the root cause, orthotics will still be necessary.
When a surgeon cuts and repositions a bone, it is referred to as an osteotomy. There are two basic techniques used to perform an osteotomy to realign the first metatarsal. In some cases, the far end of the bone is cut and moved laterally (called a distal osteotomy). This effectively reduces the angle between the first and second metatarsal bones. This type of procedure usually requires one or two small incisions in the foot. Once the surgeon is satisfied with the position of the bones, the osteotomy is held in the desired position with one, or several, metal pins. Once the bone heals, the pin is removed. The metal pins are usually removed between three and six weeks following surgery. In other situations, the first metatarsal is cut at the near end of the bone (called a proximal osteotomy). This type of procedure usually requires two or three small incisions in the foot. Once the skin is opened the surgeon performs the osteotomy. The bone is then realigned and held in place with metal pins until it heals. Again, this reduces the angle between the first and second metatarsal bones. Realignment of the big toe is then done by releasing the tight structures on the lateral, or outer, side of the first MTP joint. This includes the tight joint capsule and the tendon of the adductor hallucis muscle. This muscle tends to pull the big toe inward. By releasing the tendon, the toe is no longer pulled out of alignment. The toe is realigned and the joint capsule on the side of the big toe closest to the other toe is tightened to keep the toe straight, or balanced. Once the surgeon is satisfied that the toe is straight and well balanced, the skin incisions are closed with small stitches. A bulky bandage is applied to the foot before you are returned to the recovery room.
Here are some tips to help you prevent bunions. Wear shoes that fit well. Use custom orthotic devices. Avoid shoes with small toe boxes and high heels. Exercise daily to keep the muscles of your feet and legs strong and healthy. Follow your doctor?s treatment and recovery instructions thoroughly. Unfortunately, if you suffer from bunions due to genetics, there may be nothing you can do to prevent them from occurring. Talk with your doctor about additional prevention steps you can take, especially if you are prone to them.