The prominent bone at the side of the big toe rubs against the shoe and the skin becomes reddened. Often a sac of fluid called a bursa may develop in the tissue overlying the prominent bone. This swelling, consisting of inflamed soft tissues and underlying prominent bone is what we call a ?bunion?. If left untreated, they can be very painful.
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. This faulty structure causes the drifting of the great toe and the bone to become prominent on the side of the foot. The skin then gets pinches by this bony prominence and the shoe. Therefore in most cases bunions are not caused by tight shoes but are made more painful by tight shoes. End stage bunions may become painful both in and out of shoes.
No matter what stage your bunion is in, you can be in pain. Though bunions take years to develop, you can experience pain at any stage. Some people don?t have bunion pain at all. Pain from a bunion can be severe enough to keep you from walking comfortably in normal shoes. The skin and deeper tissue around the bunion also may become swollen or inflamed.
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
This is probably the most important step. Wearing the right footwear can help reduce stress on a minor deformity and reduce the likelihood of it progressing. Recommendations are that the forefoot easily fits within the width of the shoe and there is adequate cushioning and arch support. Soft materials such as smooth leather, suede or fabric will also help to reduce irritation to the area. The podiatrist plays an invaluable role in managing patients with bunions. This is because they can offer a number of options to the patient that can help relieve pain and reduce the severity of the deformity. They can also reduce pressure on skin lesions that develop as a result of the biomechanical changes. Podiatrists can prescribe customised orthotic devices that help reduce the stress on a bunion and control biomechanical factors which cause them. These may be used in conjunction with bunion splints or cushions to further offload the area. Evidence has shown a significant reduction in pain with the use of customized orthotic devices.
Anyone who experiences symptoms from bunions should see a podiatrist for treatment. But you may benefit from surgery if you have any of the following. Severe foot pain that limits your everyday activities, including walking and wearing comfortable shoes. You may find it hard to walk more than a few blocks (even in athletic shoes) without significant pain. Chronic big toe inflammation and swelling that doesn?t improve with rest or medications. Toe deformity, a drifting of your big toe toward the small toes. Toe stiffness, inability to bend and straighten your toes. Failure to obtain pain relief from anti-inflammatory drugs. Failure to substantially improve with other treatments such as a change in shoes and anti-inflammatory medications.