The foot is made up of many small bones that sit perfectly together forming many joints. The big toe joint comprises of the first metatarsal and the proximal (close) phalanx of the toe. A bunion forms when base of the toe (first metatarsal) drifts away from the second metatarsal. The 1st metatarsal rotates and drops and so no longer sits in its correct alignment. The tip of the first toe then rotates and drifts inwards. Overtime, under the continuing stress of this altered position of the joint and the irritation that this causes, the joint can become inflamed.
The main cause of bunions is a mechanical imbalance in the feet which is usually inherited. The mechanical imbalance is known as overpronation, where the feet roll in towards the arch and big toe. This added weight and stress transfer towards the big toe, causes instability in the structures of this area and a bunion develops.
SymptomsSince the pain from a bunion is always aggravated by shoe wear, the symptoms will often depend on the type and size of shoes worn. The perception of pain or discomfort that people experience is quite varied. There are some individuals who have small bunions that are very uncomfortable. This limits their ability to wear shoes comfortably. On the other hand, some individuals may have quite significant deformities that are annoying but do not limit their activities in anyway.
A thorough medical history and physical exam by a physician is necessary for the proper diagnosis of bunions and other foot conditions. X-rays can help confirm the diagnosis by showing the bone displacement, joint swelling, and, in some cases, the overgrowth of bone that characterizes bunions. Doctors also will consider the possibility that the joint pain is caused by or complicated by Arthritis, which causes destruction of the cartilage of the joint. Gout, which causes the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joint. Tiny fractures of a bone in the foot or stress fractures. Infection. Your doctor may order additional tests to rule out these possibilities.
Non Surgical Treatment
Most bunions can be treated without surgery. The first step for treating bunions is to ensure that your shoes fit correctly. Often good footwear is all that is needed to alleviate the problem. Shoes that are wide enough to avoid pressure on the bunion are the obvious first step. Look for shoes with wide insteps and broad toes and definitely no high heels. Sometimes, you can get your existing shoes stretched out by a shoe repairer. Seek advice from a podiatrist. Pads and toe inserts. Protective bunion pads may help to cushion the joint and reduce pain. Toe inserts are available that splint the toes straight. It may be recommended that you wear some orthotics to improve your foot position when walking. Medicines. Some people find anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, or paracetamol help ease the pain of their bunions.
Bunion surgery is most often performed as an out-patient, this means you go home that same day. It will likely be done at a hospital or out-patient (ambulatory) surgery center. The anesthetic choices with bunion surgery are local with sedation, spinal or general anesthesia. You wouldn?t expect that a small bunion would be treated exactly the same as a large one. Over the years, surgeons have developed dozens of methods to surgically correct bunions. But don?t worry because only a handful of methods are used today. With most bunion surgeries today, the procedure involves a combination of soft-tissue rebalancing of ligaments and tendons as well as bone work to re-align the foot structure. You may have heard people say they had their ?bunion shaved.? In most cases, the surgery often involves much more than simply shaving the bunion. The shaving part of the procedure is called an ?exostectomy? and often performed in conjunction with other methods.