A bunion is an enlargement of bone at the great toe joint. Tight shoes don't cause bunions, but they can aggravate them. Bunions are often inherited and become worse over time if left untreated they can cause pain, swelling, skin irritation and other foot problems. Bunion deformities are often part of a more generalized problem related to improper foot motion. There are presently over 25 types of bunion procedures performed today. The choice of procedure is based on many factors.
The most common cause of bunions is wearing shoes that are too tight. The condition is not hereditary, but it does tend to run in families-often due to a faulty foot structure. Other causes of this condition might be neuromuscular problems, flat feet, pronated feet, or foot injuries.
Symptoms include redness, swelling and pain which may be present along the inside margin of the foot. The patients feet may become too wide to fit into their normal size shoes and moderate to severe discomfort may occur when the patient is wearing tight shoes. A "hammer toe" may occur at the 2nd toe. This is when the toe contracts and presses on the shoe. Subsequently, this may cause a corn on top of the 2nd toe.
Diagnosis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor. This will usually include a discussion about shoe wear and the importance of shoes in the development and treatment of the condition. X-rays will probably be suggested. This allows your doctor to measure several important angles made by the bones of the feet to help determine the appropriate treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wear comfortable shoes that don't squeeze your toes together. Sandals are ideal in warm weather. Cushioning the bunion with a donut-shaped bunion pad sold at drugstores can prevent any direct rubbing against your shoes. Have your shoes stretched to give your foot more room or consider switching to footwear customized to relieve pressure on the affected area. Soak your foot in warm water to help lessen the pain after a day on your feet. Apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling of painful and inflamed bunions. Take aspirin or ibuprofen for the inflammation and pain, and try supplementing with anti-inflammatory herbs such as ginger and turmeric (these work more slowly than the drugs). See a podiatrist for specially fitted shoes or orthotic devices that may help. Sometimes, surgery is necessary. Seek a second opinion before scheduling any operation.
Procedures are designed and chosen to correct a variety of pathologies that may be associated with the bunion. For instance, procedures may address some combination of removing the abnormal bony enlargement of the first metatarsal, realigning the first metatarsal bone relative to the adjacent metatarsal bone, straightening the great toe relative to the first metatarsal and adjacent toes, realigning the cartilagenous surfaces of the great toe joint, addressing arthritic changes associated with the great toe joint, repositioning the sesamoid bones beneath the first metatarsal bone, shortening, lengthening, raising, or lowering the first metatarsal bone, and correcting any abnormal bowing or misalignment within the great toe. Connecting two parallel long bones side by side by Syndesmosis Procedure. At present there are many different bunion surgeries for different effects. The age, health, lifestyle and activity level of the patient may also play a role in the choice of procedure. Traditional bunion surgery can be performed under local, spinal or general anesthetic. In the case of laser surgery, a narcotic analgesic is typically used. The trend has moved strongly toward using the less invasive local anesthesia over the years. A patient can expect a 6- to 8-week recovery period during which crutches are usually required for aid in mobility. An orthopedic cast is much less common today as newer, more stable procedures and better forms of fixation (stabilizing the bone with screws and other hardware) are used. Hardware may even include absorbable pins that perform their function and are then broken down by the body over the course of months.
The best protection against developing bunions is to protect and care for your feet every day. Avoid tight and narrow-fitting shoes. Limit your use of high heels. Wear comfortable shoes with adequate space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Getting treatment for very flat or very high-arched feet (if you are experiencing symptoms) will give your feet the proper support and help maintain stability and balance.