Bunions are probably the most common foot disorder seen in podiatry. The term bunion itself is used by patients describing the bony lump found near the base of the big toe, which is usually an adaptation of the positional change of the big toe. Hallux abducto valgus (HAV) is a medical term, which describes the position of the hallux (big toe) with respect to the connecting bone of the mid foot (metatarsal). In this foot disorder, the hallux deviates towards the lesser toes and the metatarsal moves towards the midline.
A true bunion or hallux valgus results from a drifting inwards of the big toe metatarsal from its normal position closer to the second metatarsal. The bunion is the head of this first metatarsal which produces the prominence on the inner side of the now wider foot. Tendons run circumferentially around the metatarsal and toe. They both move and stabilise the toe under normal circumstances. In a bunion or hallux valgus, with the shift/displacement of the first metatarsal these tendons no longer lie in the correct axis and in fact act as a deforming force, contributing to the bunion condition.
SymptomsThe dominant symptom of a bunion is a big bulging bump on the inside of the base of the big toe. Other symptoms include swelling, soreness and redness around the big toe joint, a tough callus at the bottom of the big toe and persistent or intermittent pain.
People with bunions may be concerned about the changing appearance of their feet, but it is usually the pain caused by the condition that leads them to consult their doctor. The doctor will evaluate any symptoms experienced and examine the affected foot for joint enlargement, tissue swelling and/or tenderness. They will also assess any risk factors for the condition and will ask about family history. An x-ray of the foot is usually recommended so that the alignment of big toe joint can be assessed. This would also allow any other conditions that may be affecting the joint, such as arthritis, to be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions may be treated with proper shoes and corrective inserts such as toe spacers, bunion or toe separators, as well as bunion cushions and splints. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed to remove the bony enlargement of the first metatarsal bone, realigning the bone, or straightening the big toe.
One of the more popular proximal metatarsal osteotomies that is performed is called the Myerson/Ludloff procedure. This operation is performed for more advanced deformity. Screws are inserted into the metatarsal to hold the bone cut secure and speed up bone healing. Walking is permitted in a surgical shoe following surgery. The shoe is worn approximately 5 weeks.
A lot of bunion deformities are hereditary so there isn’t much you can do to fully prevent them. Early detection and treatment will go a long way in preventing the growth of the bunion and foot pain. Often times, a good custom orthotic can be very effective in slowing the progression of a bunion, but a podiatrist provides that. Waiting with bunions will worsen the condition and could lead to further complications such as hammertoes or contracted toes. Besides causing deformity, these secondary conditions can eventually cause issues with walking and affect your knees, hip, lower back. There are no lotions over the counter that would be able to actually treat the problem. There are some bunion shields that you can place on the bump to ease symptoms and pressure from shoes. However because this condition is an actual bone deformity, the over the counter option solutions are more like a Band-aid approach.