A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe (the metatarsophalangeal or MTP joint) that forms when the bone or tissue moves out of place. The toe bends inward at an awkward angle, which usually creates a large bone lump. If not treated, bunions can become very painful since this area supports a lot of body weight. The MTP joint can also become sore and stiff. Bunions can occur on the outside of the little toe as well.
Bunions are more common in women than men. The problem can run in families. People born with abnormal bones in their feet are more likely to form a bunion. Wearing narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes may lead to the development of a bunion. The condition may become painful as the bump gets worse. Extra bone and a fluid-filled sac grow at the base of the big toe.
SymptomsSymptoms often include pain, swelling, and abnormal position of the first toe. The technical term for bunions is ?hallux valgus? (HV). This refers to the first toe or hallux moving away or abducting from the middle of the foot and then twisting in such a way that the inside edge actually touches the ground and the outside edge turns upward. This term describes the deviation of the toe toward the outside part of the foot. If left untreated, bunions can worsen over time and cause considerable difficulty in walking, discomfort, and skin problems such as corns. In some cases, a small bursa (fluid-filled sac) near the joint becomes inflamed. This condition is known as bursitis and can cause additional redness, swelling, and pain. Less frequently, bunions occur at the base of the fifth toe. When this occurs, it is called a ?tailor?s bunion? or bunionette.
X-rays are the best way to determine the amount of deformity of the MTP joint. Blood work may be required to rule out other diseases that may be associated with bunions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Other tests such as bone scans or MRI’s are not usually required.
Non Surgical Treatment
If overpronation is diagnosed early enough, the mechanics of the feet can be adjusted using a prescription orthotic. If orthotics are worn consistently, many major foot deformities can be avoided such as bunions. Early detection is of paramount importance. When a bunion progresses and cannot be controlled by an orthotic, surgical correction may be a consideration. Many advances in bunion correction allow for surgical intervention to make healing and return to normal activities much easier than use of traditional bunion surgery.
For patients who have arthritis of the big toe joint associated with a bunion deformity an osteotomy is not performed. The deformity is corrected through the joint either with a fusion of the joint or by removing a portion of the joint (an arthroplasty). Fusion of the big toe joint is an excellent operation since it corrects the deformity, prevents the bunion from returning and eliminates the arthritis simultaneously.