A hallux abducto valgus deformity, commonly called a bunion, is a deformity characterized by medial deviation of the great toe, often erroneously described as an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the head of the big toe. There is disagreement among medical professionals about the cause of bunions; some see them as primarily caused by the long-term use of shoes, particularly tight-fitting shoes with pointed toes, while others believe that the problem stems from genetic factors that are exacerbated by shoe use. Bunions occur when pressure is applied to the side of the big toe (hallux) forcing it inwards towards, and sometimes under or over, the other toes (angulation). As pressure is applied, the tissues surrounding the joint may become swollen and tender. In a survey of people from cultures that do not wear shoes, no cases of bunions were found, lending credence to the hypothesis that bunions are caused by ill-fitting shoes. The bump itself is partly due to the swollen bursal sac or an osseous (bony) anomaly on the metatarsophalangeal joint. The larger part of the bump is a normal part of the head of the first metatarsal bone that has tilted sideways to stick out at its top.
Women tend to suffer from bunions more often than men, probably because of the shoes they wear. But besides shoes, standing on the feet for long periods of time can also make symptoms of a bunion worse. Along with the bump, these bunion symptoms include pain or soreness, swelling, redness around the joint, a burning sensation or sometimes numbness. The big toe may develop calluses or not be able to move as well as it once did. Sores between the toes and ingrown toenails may also occur because of a bunion.
The initial symptom may be pain at the joint prominence when wearing certain shoes. The joint capsule may be tender at any stage. Later symptoms may include a painful, warm, red, cystic, movable, fluctuant swelling located medially (adventitial bursitis) and swellings and mild inflammation affecting the entire joint (osteoarthritic synovitis), which is more circumferential. With hallux limitus or rigidus, there is restriction of passive joint motion, tenderness at the dorsolateral aspect of the joint, and increased dorsiflexion of the distal phalanx.
The doctor considers a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position.
Non Surgical Treatment
Changing your footwear to roomy and comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes. Padding and taping applied by chiropodist/podiatrist to your foot can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain. Oral medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may help control the pain of a bunion. Cortisone injections. Over-the-counter arch supports can help distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Prescription foot orthotic devices to help stabilize the forefoot. Manual foot therapy to free up motion in arthritic foot joints.
Surgical treatment for bunion deformities usually involves an osteotomy, a procedure in which a cut or cuts are made in the affected bone or bones to restore proper alignment. Different techniques are used depending on the type of deformity; selection is guided by the degree of deformity present and the goals of preventing recurrence and achieving the most rapid recovery possible. Some of the more common procedures are. The distal chevron osteotomy: a procedure in which a v-shaped cut is made at the toe end of the first metatarsal. This surgery is appropriate for individuals who have a congruent deformity, one in which there is a painful prominence at the base of the toe, but the joint is still well aligned. Absorbable pins are placed in the metatarsal to maintain alignment during healing. The Scarf or Ludloff osteotomy: in this procedure, a more extensive cut is made higher up in the metatarsal to correct a moderate incongruent deformity and metatarsus primus varus. Screws are used to maintain alignment during healing. The crescent osteotomy: a procedure in which a curved cut is made at the base of the metatarsal is appropriate for patients with more severe metatarsus primus varus and, therefore, require more correction. Screws or pins are used to maintain alignment. The Lapidus procedure: individuals who have severe deformity, instability of the first ray, with a loose metatarsal-tarsal joint (located in the mid-foot) may not get enough correction from an osteotomy alone. Moreover, the looseness of the joint may lead to recurrence or be causing pain on the ball of the foot because the first metatarsal is floating up, allowing for excessive weight to go to adjacent metatarsals (commonly the second and the third). In such cases, the metatarsal-tarsus joint is fused to provide lasting stability. Screws are used to maintain alignment. The loss of motion from the fusion is small and does not significantly limit motion of the big toe. Patients undergoing bunion surgery are given an ankle block that anesthetizes the foot from the ankle down. Depending on individual preference, a sedative may be given as well and the patient can be as sedated as they wish. All bunion surgeries may be done on a same-day basis, eliminating the need for hospitalization.
Wear insoles and well-fitting shoes to help slow down the progression of bunions and alleviate discomfort. Cushioning can also help alleviate discomfort. Consider wearing shoes with a wide toe box so they don't crowd your toes. Children can also develop bunions and should wear properly fitting shoes as their feet are still developing.