How To Address Bunions
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.
In most cases, bunions are caused by genetics and incorrect foot mechanics. The foot may flatten too much, forcing the toe joint to move beyond normal range. In some cases, arthritis or an injury produces a bunion. In other cases people are simply born with extra bone near a toe joint. Tight fitting shoes further complicate the condition. Shoes such as high heels are particularly damaging to the toes. These shoes have a sloping foot piece and a narrow toe box. The slope causes the front of the foot to be pushed with force into the narrow toe box. The narrow toe box causes the toes to become squeezed together. Depending on factors such as duration of wearing constraining footwear, skeletal maturity, and individual factors, the toes can be- come permanently adapted to the new position and lead to the formation of a bunion. Once a bunion forms, the mechanics of the feet and toes are altered. Tendons begin to pull the toe into an abnormal position, and the problem tends to progress over time.
SymptomsSigns 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.
Looking at the problem area on the foot is the best way to discover a bunion. If it has the shape characteristic of a bunion, this is the first hint of a problem. The doctor may also look at the shape of your leg, ankle, and foot while you are standing, and check the range of motion of your toe and joints by asking you to move your toes in different directions A closer examination with weight-bearing X-rays helps your doctor examine the actual bone structure at the joint and see how severe the problem is. A doctor may ask about the types of shoes you wear, sports or activities (e.g., ballet) you participate in, and whether or not you have had a recent injury. This information will help determine your treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many people with bunions are quite comfortable if they wear wide, well fitting shoes and give them time to adapt to the shape of their feet. A small pad over the bony prominence, which can be bought from a chemist or chiropodist, can take the pressure of the shoe off the bunion. High heels tend to squeeze the foot into the front of the shoe and should be avoided. It is often worthwhile seeing a chiropodist if these simple measures are not quite enough.
Surgery is the only way to correct a bunion. A bunion will usually get worse over time, so if it’s left untreated it’s likely to get bigger and become more painful. If your bunion is causing a significant amount of pain and affecting your quality of life, your GP may refer you to be assessed for bunion surgery. The aim of surgery is to relieve pain and improve the alignment of your big toe. Surgery isn’t usually carried out for cosmetic reasons alone. Even after surgery, there may still be limits to the styles of shoe you can wear. Bunion surgery is often carried out as a day procedure, which means you won’t have to stay in hospital overnight. The procedure will either be carried out under a local anaesthetic or a general anaesthetic.