Bunions , or hallux valgus, are a bone deformity at the joint of the big toe. Bunions develop when the big toe begins to point inwards and overlap nearby toes, causing the joint of the big toe to grow larger and become swollen. Bunions can also cause the skin at the base of the big toe to turn red, which results in sometimes being mistaken for a skin disorder. As bunions develop gradually, people soon notice that their big toe is starting to look crooked or unsightly. In some cases, people with bunions may also experience pain when walking and wearing shoes.
Causes of Bunions
Bunions are caused by abnormalities in the bone structure of the foot. These abnormalities are usually hereditary, such as flat feet or a slanted big toe. Wearing high heels or shoes with little toe room is not a cause of bunions, but it is a factor which may cause symptoms to worsen.
Symptoms of Bunions
In the early stages of this condition, when the big toe is only slightly slanted, there may not be any problems. However, when the big toe begins to severely slant, or in the event that a person continuously wears shoes that are too tight, consistently squeezing the toes together, the pressure exerted on the big toe may begin to produce noticeable symptoms, such as:
- A bulge around the base of the big toe
- Swelling, redness, or pain around the base of the big toe
- Intermittent or continuous foot pain
- Thickening of the skin at the base of the big toe
- Loss of the full range of movement in the big toe, resulting in difficulty walking
Although bunions are not always problematic, if left untreated they can cause further complications including:
- Bursitis : an inflammation and swelling of a bursa, a fluid-filled sac which acts as a cushion in areas where bone, tendon, and muscle converge around a joint. Bursitis inflammation causes pain.
- Hammer Toe : develops when the joint of a toe becomes bent or curls downward due to dislocation, causing pain and increased pressure.
- Pain and swelling on the sole of the foot.
In order to diagnose bunions, the doctor will need to perform a clinical examination of the outside of the foot. However, in cases where further confirmation is required, the doctor may also have an x-ray done.
Treatment of bunions depends on the severity of the symptoms, pain, and pressure on the patient's toe. Treatment may begin with simple measures such as changing the type of shoes one patient wears, or wearing insoles to help support the affected area. Patients may also be advised to take over-the-counter painkillers, avoid physical activities which aggravate symptoms, or place the affected foot in an ice massage to alleviate pain and swelling.
In the event that these treatment options do not improve symptoms, or if the patient still can’t perform everyday activities without being in pain, then surgery may be needed to rearrange the protruding bone, tendon, and nerves into their correct positions.
Choosing comfortable shoes, which puts less pressure on the joints and bones in our feet, helps to alleviate the symptoms of bunions and stop them from developing. Make sure to always keep comfort as a priority when purchasing footwear.