Bunions are one of the more serious conditions that can affect foot health. A bunion is actually a bone deformity of the big toe, where the joint at the base and side of the toe is enlarged, forcing the toe out of place. Left untreated, bunions worsen over time. The big toe angles in toward the rest of the toe, and can overlap the third toe (a condition known as Hallux Valgus). Or, it may move toward the second toe and twist or rotate (Hallus Abducto Valgus). Bunions can also lead to deformities like hammertoes. Bunions cause discomfort and pain, because the enlargement constantly rubs against footwear. The skin of the toe becomes red and tender. The larger a bunion grows, the more painful it is to walk. People with bunions can develop thickening skin on the bottom of the foot, bursitis or arthritis, and chronic pain.
Bunions are not hereditary, but they do tend to run in families, usually because of a faulty foot structure. Foot injuries, neuromuscular problems, flat feet, and pronated feet can contribute to their formation. It is estimated that bunions occur in 33 percent of the population in Western countries.
Symptoms include pain in and around the ball of the big toe, usually from the bone rubbing too much against the shoe. You may be unable to wear certain types of shoes due to the shape of the forefoot. The big toe appears to be bent inwards towards and in come cases over the inside toe.
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
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.
Bunion surgery can be performed under local or general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes between half an hour to an hour. There are several types of bunionectomies. Some involve removal and realignment of the bones in your foot. Mild bunion problems can sometimes be resolved using soft tissue release or tightening. For some very severe cases bones of the big toe are fused or the bunion is cut out along with some of the bone at the base of the toe. Be sure and discuss which type of operation you will have with your surgeon. With any type of bunionectomy your surgeon will make one or more incisions (cuts) near your big toe. They will use instruments to trim the bones and remove the bunion. Wire, screws or plates may also be used to hold the new joint in place.
To help prevent bunions, select your style and size of shoes wisely. Choose shoes with a wide toe area and a half-inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Shoes also should conform to the shape of your feet without causing too much pressure.