A bunion is an unnatural, bony hump that forms at the base of the big toe where it attaches to the foot. Often, the big toe deviates toward the other toes. When this occurs, the base of the big toe pushes outward on the first metatarsal bone, which is the bone directly behind the big toe, forming a bunion. If this happens on the little toe and fifth metatarsal, it's called a bunionette. Because a bunion occurs at a joint, where the toe bends in normal walking, your entire body weight rests on the bunion at each step. Bunions can be extremely painful. They're also vulnerable to excess pressure and friction from shoes and can lead to the development of calluses.
With prolonged wearing of constraining footwear your toes will adapt to the new position and lead to the deformity we know as a foot bunion. Footwear is not the only cause of a bunion. Injuries to the foot can also be a factor in developing a bunion. Poor foot arch control leading to flat feet or foot overpronation does make you biomechanically susceptible to foot bunions. A family history of bunions also increases your likelihood of developing bunions. Many people who have a bunion have a combination of factors that makes them susceptible to having this condition. For example, if you are a women over the age of forty with a family history of bunions, and often wear high-heeled shoes, you would be considered highly likely to develop a bunion.
Many people with bunions suffer from discomfort and pain from the constant irritation, rubbing, and friction of the enlargement against shoes. The skin over the toe becomes red and tender. Because this joint flexes with every step, the bigger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Over time, bursitis or arthritis may set in, the skin on the bottom of the foot may become thicker, and everyday walking may become difficult-all contributing to chronic bunion pain.
Looking at the problem area on the foot is the best way to discover a bunion. If it has the shape characteristic of a bunion, this is the first hint of a problem. The doctor may also look at the shape of your leg, ankle, and foot while you are standing, and check the range of motion of your toe and joints by asking you to move your toes in different directions A closer examination with weight-bearing X-rays helps your doctor examine the actual bone structure at the joint and see how severe the problem is. A doctor may ask about the types of shoes you wear, sports or activities (e.g., ballet) you participate in, and whether or not you have had a recent injury. This information will help determine your treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
The non-invasive treatments for bunions are many and include changes in footwear, icing the sore area, over the counter pain medications, orthotic shoe inserts, and weight management. If these conservative measures fail to arrest your pain and discomfort, your foot and ankle surgeon may recommend a bunionectomy or similar surgical procedure, depending on your condition.
In severe hallux valgus bunion cases, the first long bone (metatarsal) in the foot dramatically shifts away from the second metatarsal, resulting in looseness and a large deformity. In severe bunion corrections, a surgery known as the Lapidus procedure realigns the first metatarsal into its natural position. Using screws, the surgery holds the bone stable so it does not shift again and reduces the change of the bunion returning to basically none. Surgery may also involve removing the enlarged portion of the bunion region, cutting and realigning the bone, and correcting the position of the tendons and ligaments. By using a special plate with Lapidus procedures, University Foot and Ankle Institute patients are able to put weight on their foot after only 2-3 weeks, rather than the typical 6-8 weeks of no weight.