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.
Long periods of pressure from a tight-fitting shoe can cause the inflammation and the pain. This often happens when the big toe is forced into a position where it presses inward and overlaps the second toe. The base of the big toe then is pushed beyond normal alignment of the foot, resulting in the prominence typical of a bunion.
Just because you have a bunion does not mean you will necessarily have pain. There are some people with very severe bunions and no pain and people with mild bunions and a lot of pain. Symptoms for a bunion may include pain on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint, swelling on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint, appearance of a "bump" on the inside edge of your foot. The big toe rolling over to one side. Redness on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Numbness or burning in the big toe (hallux). Decreased motion at the big toe joint. Painful bursa (fluid-filled sac) on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Pain while wearing shoes - especially shoes too narrow or with high heels. Joint pain during activities. Other conditions which may appear with bunions include Corns in between the big toe and second toe. Callous formation on the side or bottom of the big toe or big toe joint. Callous under the second toe joint. Pain in the second toe joint.
Your doctor is very likely to be able to diagnose your bunion simply by examining your foot. Even before that, he or she will probably ask about your family and personal medical history and evaluate the types of shoes you wear. You'll be asked about your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. You may also be asked to flex your toe so that your doctor can get an idea of your range of motion. He or she may order x-rays in order to determine the extent of your deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
A hinged flexible bunion splint, can relieve pain by providing corrective arch support and releasing tension away from the inflamed joint. Change shoes! Avoid flip flops, high-heels and shoes with pointed, narrow toe-boxes. Medicine will not prevent or cure bunions. However, the use of over the counter anti- inflammatory medications can help. Bunion splints, pads and arch supports can help redistribute weight and move pressure away from the big toe.
As you explore bunion surgery, be aware that so-called "simple" or "minimal" surgical procedures are often inadequate "quick fixes" that can do more harm than good. And beware of unrealistic claims that surgery can give you a "perfect" foot. The goal of surgery is to relieve as much pain, and correct as much deformity as is realistically possible. It is not meant to be cosmetic. There are several techniques available, often as daycare (no in-patient stay), using ankle block local anaesthetic alone or combined with sedation or full general anaesthesia. Most of the recovery occurs over 6-8 weeks, but full recovery is often longer and can include persistent swelling and stiffness. The surgeon may take one or more of the following steps in order to bring the big toe back to the correct position: (a) shift the soft tissue (ligaments and tendons) around the joint and reset the metatarsal bone (osteotomy), remove the bony bump and other excess bone or (b) remove the joint and connect (fuse) the bones on the two side of the joint (fusion). These are just a few examples of the many different procedures available and your treating surgeon can help you decide the best option for you.