A bunion is an abnormal bump, or bony enlargement that forms at the base of your big toe. In the early stages, the bunion may be small and the side of your foot may be slightly swollen. As it progresses, the bump gets larger and becomes increasingly painful. Your big toe may point towards your other toes, rather than straight. Shoes may be uncomfortable to wear and add to the irritation of the joint.
Despite the popular belief, wearing high heels and too-narrow shoes does not cause bunions. Wearing them can irritate, aggravate, or accelerate the formation of the bunion, but are not the root cause. Bunions are more commonly inherited, if your parents or grandparents had bunions, you may also get one. Bunions can also be caused by trauma or injury to the joints, ligaments, or bones of the foot.
Corns and calluses may occur on the soles of the feet, in between toes and on the bunion joint. Stiffness can occur at the big toe due to secondary arthritis, this is known as Hallux Rigidus. Other foot conditions can occur such as in growing toenails and in severe cases the bunion joint may have a fluid filled sack called a bursitis. This can be very painful and can become infected.
Your doctor will ask questions about your past health and carefully examine your toe and joint. Some of the questions might be: When did the bunions start? What activities or shoes make your bunions worse? Do any other joints hurt? The doctor will examine your toe and joint and check their range of motion. This is done while you are sitting and while you are standing so that the doctor can see the toe and joint at rest and while bearing weight. X-rays are often used to check for bone problems or to rule out other causes of pain and swelling. Other tests, such as blood tests or arthrocentesis (removal of fluid from a joint for testing), are sometimes done to check for other problems that can cause joint pain and swelling. These problems might include gout , rheumatoid arthritis , or joint infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
Custom orthoses or over-the-counter insoles to aid big toe joint function, help control over-pronation and maintain proper alignment of the bones in the feet. Properly sized, supportive footwear that are torsionally stable (can?t be folded or twisted easily) and that feature a good ?rocker profile? (curved from the ball to tips of the toes) help to reduce stress on the joint when walking. Footwear modifications to expand the area of the shoe surrounding the bunion to relieve pressure. Physical therapy modalities include rest, icing and massage. Injections, surgery and other treatment options, please consult your medical doctor for information and/or referral to a podiatrist or other foot and ankle specialist.
Severe cases may require, along with surgery, cast immobilization and prolonged avoidance of weight-bearing activity. You should know that undergoing surgery for this health problem does not guarantee a cure or even a beneficial health outcome. Bunions, like many other foot conditions, should always be approached from a prevention standpoint, or therapy should be directed at slowing the progression of your deformity.
If the diagnosis is made early on, such as in preadolescence, bunion development can be slowed and in some cases arrested with the proper supportive shoe gear and custom functional shoe inserts (orthotics). Avoidance of certain athletic activities with improper shoe fit and toe pressure can prevent the symptoms that occur with bunions.