A bunion is an often painful enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the base of the big toe. If you have a bunion, you will notice a bump on your big toe joint. The big toe may turn in toward the second toe and the tissues surrounding the joint may be swollen and tender. Bunions can come from a variety of causes, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or foot mechanics that place too much load on the ball of your foot. If untreated, bunions can worsen, leading to other serious complications, and even potentially require surgery. Early treatment is best, so if you?re suffering from bunions it?s smart to see a podiatrist for proper treatment and care.
Bunions occur with greater regularity in women than men, and they may sometimes run in families. You may also have an increased likelihood of bunions if you are born with certain bone abnormalities in your feet. Factors that may increase your chances of developing a bunion include long-term use of narrow-toed and/or high-heeled footwear. Arthritis. Toe trauma. Laxity of your connective tissues (ligament laxity). Limb length inequalities. Genetics. Certain foot problems (e.g. flatfoot, over-pronation, etc.).
SymptomsJust because you have a bunion does not mean you have to 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. 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.
Diagnosis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor. This will usually include a discussion about shoe wear and the importance of shoes in the development and treatment of the condition. X-rays will probably be suggested. This allows your doctor to measure several important angles made by the bones of the feet to help determine the appropriate treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment options are based on the severity of the deformity and symptoms. Nonsurgical treatments usually are enough to relieve the pain and pressure on the big toe. Your doctor may tell you to start wearing roomy, comfortable shoes and use toe padding or a special corrective device that slips into your shoes to push the big toe back into its proper position. To help relieve pain, you can take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others). Whirlpool baths also may help to ease discomfort.
For more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Bunion surgery aims to bring your big toe back into its correct position. Several different surgical procedures have been used to treat bunions. These include ‘shaving’ excess bone, removing the end of one of the bones or breaking and re-aligning the misplaced bone. Rehabilitation from bunion surgery can be quite long and usually involves you keeping off your foot for some weeks. It may take a year or more for complete recovery.
Because bunions develop slowly, taking care of your feet during childhood and early adulthood can pay off later in life. Keep track of the shape of your feet as they develop over time, especially if foot problems run in your family. Exercising your feet can strengthen them. Learn to pick up small objects, like a pencil or pebble, with your toes. Wear shoes that fit properly and don’t cramp or pinch your toes. Women should avoid shoes with very high heels or pointed toes.