A bunion is the enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe. It occurs as a result of the misalignment of the bones of the big toe. This leads to stretching of the ligaments and tendons around the big toe joint and causes soft tissue over the joint to become inflamed and painful. There may be additional bone formation (exostosis) in the joint and the skin around the joint may become red and tender. Over time the cartilage in the joint can break down, leading to arthritis.
Inflammatory joint diseases. Those who suffer from rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are at risk for bunions, although many times, those who suffer from bunions will mistakenly attribute the soreness in their feet to arthritis. Genetic and neuromuscular factors. Individuals with Down?s Syndrome are believed to be more prone to developing bunions; therefore, the gait and feet of such patients should be examined carefully and regularly so that any problems can be caught and treated early. Similarly, individuals of any age who have been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos or Marfan?s Syndrome, have also been shown to have a higher than average occurrence of bunions. Limb inequality. Individuals who have legs of unequal length often suffer from bunions on the longer limb due to the irregular mechanics of their walking or running gait.
Symptoms, which occur at the site of the bunion, may include pain or soreness, inflammation and redness, a burning sensation, possible numbness. Symptoms occur most often when wearing shoes that crowd the toes, such as shoes with a tight toe box or high heels. This may explain why women are more likely to have symptoms than men. In addition, spending long periods of time on your feet can aggravate the symptoms of bunions.
Orthopaedic surgeons diagnose bunions on the basis of physical examination and weight bearing x-rays. Two angles are assessed, the intermetatarsal angle, that is between the first and second metatarsals (the bones that lead up to the base of the toes). If this angle exceeds 9? (the angle found in the healthy foot) it is abnormal and referred to as metatarsus primus varus. the hallux valgus angle, that is, the angle of the big toe as it drifts toward the small toe. An angle that exceeds 15? is considered to be a sign of pathology.
Non Surgical Treatment
There is a wide rage of treatment options for those who suffer from bunions. If the bunion is mild and does not require bunion surgery, resting the foot and avoiding excessive exercise or walking will help. Wearing shoes that have a wider toe opening, including sandals, can relieve the rubbing and irritation that comes along with more confining shoes. High-heeled shoes should be avoided as they push the big toe outward and can inflame the joint of a bunion. Anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) usually ease inflammation and target pain as well. If the bunion does become inflamed and irritated, application of an ice pack can reduce swelling and pain. If the inflammation because excessive, cortisone can be injected at the site of the bunion to reduce the swelling at the joint of the big toe.
Severe cases may require, along with surgery, cast immobilization and prolonged avoidance of weight-bearing activity. You should know that undergoing surgery for this health problem does not guarantee a cure or even a beneficial health outcome. Bunions, like many other foot conditions, should always be approached from a prevention standpoint, or therapy should be directed at slowing the progression of your deformity.