A bunion is a deviation and inflammation of joint where the big toe connects to the 1st metatarsal, also known as the 1st MTP. The capsule of the joint is displaced, thickened and enlarged, and the cartilage of the joint is damaged. There are three degrees of bunions: mild, moderate and severe. It is important to know that bunions are not hereditary, although the tendency to overpronate, which is one of the main causes of bunions, has a hereditary component. Patients complain of pain in the joint and have a big toe that points away from the midline of the body. Often, they are only able to wear very wide shoes.
Bunions, Corns, and Calluses are all related in that they can each be caused by tight and/or poor fitting footwear. Each can also be caused by the following, footwear that is too narrow and/or too small. Constrictive toe boxes (toe area). Tapered toe boxes can cause bunions and cause them to worsen to the point of needing surgery.
SymptomsThe most obvious symptoms of a bunion are. Pain in the area of the MTP joint, the joint where your big toe connects to your foot. Bending of the big toe in towards the other toes. An enlarged bump of bone or tissue at the MTP joint. Each symptom can range in degree from small to severe. Sometimes the pain can be sufficient to make it difficult to walk in normal shoes. Other symptoms may include. Swelling and inflammation of the skin around the MTP joint. Thickening of the skin in the area of the joint. Restricted motion in your big toe. Pressure from the inward bending of your big toe can affect your other toes, leading to corns on your smaller toes. Ingrown toenails on the smaller toes. Development of hammertoes in the other toes. Calluses on the bottom of your foot. If you have any of these symptoms, especially pain, displacement of your big toe or development of a bulge, you should consider consulting your physician. Even if you’re not significantly bothered by some of these symptoms, bunions tend to continue getting bigger and more serious over time and should be taken care of before they do so.
Although bunions are usually obvious from the pain and unusual shape of the toe, further investigation is often advisable. Your doctor will usually send you for X-rays to determine the extent of the deformity. Blood tests may be advised to see if some type of arthritis could be causing the pain. Based on this evaluation, your doctor can determine whether you need orthopaedic shoes, medication, surgery or other treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Patients should immediately cease using improperly fitted shoes. Footwear selection should have a wide and roomy toebox to accommodate the full width of the foot. If the problem is the over-pronation, the patient should be fitted with orthotics and can expect a slow recovery from pain over a period of months. Orthotics will not cause the physical deformity to regress, but will simply arrest any further progression and likely stop the pain. It is important to note however, that when bunions are severe and require surgery, the bunion can be corrected, but will develop again unless the root cause of over-pronation is corrected. If over-pronation is the root cause, orthotics will still be necessary.
Research shows that 85% of people who have bunion corrections are satisfied with the results. However, a number of problems can arise. The big toe is usually stiffer than before. For most people this does not matter, but for athletes or dancers it is very important. As mentioned before, the big toe is slightly weaker with a bunion, and this transfers weight onto the ball of the foot. After bunion surgery, this transfer of weight can increase. Therefore, if you have pain under the ball of the foot (“metatarsalgia”) it may be worse after bunion surgery, and it may also develop for the first time. Careful surgical technique can reduce this risk, but it cannot avoid it completely. Most people who develop metatarsalgia are comfortable with a simple insole in the shoe but occasionally surgery is required. In some people the big toe slowly tilts back toward the original position and occasionally this is bad enough to need to have the operation redone. On the other hand, the toe can tilt the other way, though much more rarely. Again, occasionally this is bad enough to need to have the operation redone. Infections in the wound, plaster problems and minor damage to the nerves of the toe can occur in any foot surgery. Usually these are minor problems that get better quickly. This may sound like a lot of possible problems, but in fact most people do not get them and are satisfied with their bunion surgery. However, this may help you to see how important it is to have any bunion surgery carried out by a properly trained and experienced foot and ankle surgeon.