A bunion (hallux valgus) is an enlargement of the bone or tissue around a joint at the base of the big toe or at the base of the little toe (in which case it is called a "bunionette" or "tailor's bunion"). Bunions often occur when the joint is stressed over a prolonged period. Ninety percent of bunions occur in women, primarily because women may be more likely to wear tight, pointed, and confining shoes. Bunions may be inherited as a family trait. Bunions may also result from arthritis, which often affects the big toe joint.
There are many factors which can contribute to the development of a bunion. The common causes are genetic factors, poor foot mechanics, high-heeled or narrow footwear and trauma to the toe. It is believed that constant stress on the joint of the big toe causes mild displacement of the bones and the joint, along with thickening of the tissues and a change in the pull of the muscles. This can result in a degree of arthritis of the joint, and over time, further displacement of the toe. This may lead to pain, difficultly with fitting shoes and corns/calloused lesions due to excess pressure on the smaller digits.
Symptoms, which occur at the site of the bunion, may include pain or soreness, inflammation and redness, a burning sensation, possible numbness. Symptoms occur most often when wearing shoes that crowd the toes, such as shoes with a tight toe box or high heels. This may explain why women are more likely to have symptoms than men. In addition, spending long periods of time on your feet can aggravate the symptoms of bunions.
Before examining your foot, the doctor will ask you about the types of shoes you wear and how often you wear them. He or she also will ask if anyone else in your family has had bunions or if you have had any previous injury to the foot. In most cases, your doctor can diagnose a bunion just by examining your foot. During this exam, you will be asked to move your big toe up and down to see if you can move it as much as you should be able to. The doctor also will look for signs of redness and swelling and ask if the area is painful. Your doctor may want to order X-rays of the foot to check for other causes of pain, to determine whether there is significant arthritis and to see if the bones are aligned properly.
Non Surgical Treatment
If abnormal pronation is identified and corrected early, the formation of a bunion can be prevented. However, if the bunion has already developed and cannot be tolerated by the patient, surgery is necessary. Amputation of the big toe ceased to be a treatment for bunions many generations ago, but only in the past few years have surgical procedures been developed to incorporate the realignment of the bone with the correction of the abnormal motion that led to deformity.
When the pain of a bunion interferes with daily activities, and conservative treatment has been completed it's time to discuss surgical options. Foot Mechanics has excellent relationships with many Orthopaedic Surgeons, who are the specialists who perform bunion surgery. Because bunions are caused by faulty foot mechanics surgery can improve the look of your feet by removing the ?bump? but if the underlying mechanics are not addressed then the bunion is likely to return. For this reason orthotics are used post-surgery to prevent the return of bunions.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing a bunion is to wear shoes that fit properly. Any shoe that is too tight or too high will force your toes together and may cause the condition to develop. Shoes need to be wide enough, so they aren't rubbing against the joint, and preferably made of leather. Avoid shoes with a lot elaborate stitching at the front, as this can also cause irritation. Heels should be no more than three to four inches and you should only wear them occasionally. Court shoes should seldomly be worn, as they do not give the foot any support. Be honest with yourself, you know if your shoes aren't fitting you comfortably. Do something about it, or you will suffer for your vanity.