The common bunion is a localized area of enlargement of the inner portion of the joint at the base of the big toe. The enlargement actually represents a misalignment of the big toe joint (metatarsal phalangeal joint) and, in some cases, additional bone formation. The misalignment causes the big toe to point outward (medically termed hallux valgus deformity) toward the smaller toes. This deformity is progressive and will increase with time. The enlarged joint at the base of the big toe (the first metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTP joint) can become inflamed with redness, tenderness, and pain. A small fluid-filled sac (bursa) adjacent to the joint can also become inflamed (bursitis), leading to additional swelling, redness, and pain. A more deep joint pain may occur as localized arthritis develops in later stages of the deformity. A less common bunion is located at the joint at the base of the smallest (fifth) toe. This bunion is sometimes referred to as a tailor's bunion or bunionette.
Bunions form when the normal balance of forces exerted on the joints and tendons of your feet are disrupted. This can lead to instability in the big toe joint - also known as the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, causing a deformity. Bunions develop over years of abnormal motion and pressure on your big toe joint. They often result from a combination of your inherited foot type, faulty foot mechanics that affect the way you walk and shoes that fit improperly. Other causes of bunions include foot injuries. Deformities present at birth (congenital). Neuromuscular disorders, such as cerebral palsy or post- polio syndrome (post-poliomyelitis). Bunions may be associated with various forms of arthritis, including inflammatory or degenerative, causing the protective cartilage that covers your big toe joint to deteriorate. An occupation that puts extra stress on your feet also can be a cause. Waiters, factory workers, dancers and athletes often are more prone to developing bunions.
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.
When an x-ray of a bunion is taken, there is usually angulation between the first metatarsal bone and the bones of the big toe. There may also be angulation between the first and second metatarsal bones. These angular irregularities are the essence of most bunions. In general, surgery for bunions aims to correct such angular deformities.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wearing the right shoes, using shoe inserts (orthoses) and padding, and taking painkillers can all help to ease your symptoms of a bunion. However, these treatments can?t cure a bunion or stop it getting worse. If you have severe pain or discomfort from a bunion, you may be advised to have an operation to correct it. One of the most important things you can do is to wear the right footwear. You should try to wear flat, wide-fitting shoes with laces or an adjustable strap that fits you properly. You may also want to place a bunion pad over your bunion to give it some protection from the pressure of your shoes. You can usually buy these pads from a pharmacy, or get them from your podiatrist or chiropodist. He or she may also recommend a shoe insert, which can be moulded specifically to your foot. Shoe inserts aim to reduce the pain of your bunion by improving how you walk. You can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help relieve the pain and inflammation of your bunion. Always follow the instructions in the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. Medicines give temporary relief but they won?t be able to cure your bunion or prevent it from getting worse. If you have a bunion as a result of underlying arthritis, your doctor may prescribe specific medicines to treat this.
Bunion surgery is usually done as an out patient procedure, so the patient does not have to stay in hospital overnight although it is usually performed under a general anesthetic. The procedure involves the surgeon making a cut on the inside of the big toe joint and removing excess bone whilst also repositioning ligaments and tendons. The joint may be fixed with screws or wires, which may be dissolve, or may be removed at a later date or in some cases, remain in the foot permanently. After the operation the foot will be immobilized, often in a cast for 4 to 8 weeks to keep the bones in alignment. Crutches will usually be issued to help the patient get around. After this period, the foot will be assessed to check the bones have healed correctly. At which point full weight bearing may be gradually introduced.