The term ?bunion,? as it is popularly used, describes a variety of deformities involving a painful prominence and swelling at the base of the big toe. Orthopaedists use additional terms to describe the different deformities. The condition in which the big toe deviates from the normal position toward the direction of the second toe is referred to as hallux valgus. Dorsal bunions are a different variety in which the prominence appears on the top of the base of the toe, often the result of an arthritic joint.
Women tend to get bunions more than men. This could be due to the more restrictive footwear they wear, (such as high heels or narrow toe boxes which force the big toe towards the little toes) but women also tend to have looser ligaments, making them slightly more prone. You?re also more likely to get bunions if your parents or grandparents have them.
SymptomsWhile bunions may be considered cosmetically undesirable, they are not necessarily painful. In cases where the individual has minor discomfort that can be eased by wearing wider shoes made of soft leather and/or with the aid of spacers-padding placed between the toes to correct alignment-further treatment may not be necessary. (Anti-inflammatory agents can be used to alleviate temporary discomfort at the site of the bursa.) For those who continue to experience pain on a daily basis and who cannot wear most types of shoe comfortably, surgical treatment may be the best choice.
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
Wear comfortable shoes that don’t squeeze your toes together. Sandals are ideal in warm weather. Cushioning the bunion with a donut-shaped bunion pad sold at drugstores can prevent any direct rubbing against your shoes. Have your shoes stretched to give your foot more room or consider switching to footwear customized to relieve pressure on the affected area. Soak your foot in warm water to help lessen the pain after a day on your feet. Apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling of painful and inflamed bunions. Take aspirin or ibuprofen for the inflammation and pain, and try supplementing with anti-inflammatory herbs such as ginger and turmeric (these work more slowly than the drugs). See a podiatrist for specially fitted shoes or orthotic devices that may help. Sometimes, surgery is necessary. Seek a second opinion before scheduling any operation.
Surgery is a last option for those with advanced and painful bunions that do not respond to any other treatment. The surgical operation to correct the deformity from a bunion is called a bunionectomy, which typically involves removing bony growth of the bunion, re-positioning ligaments and tendons, and realigning the bones of the toe joint. Surgery is usually a day procedure performed with a local anaesthetic. The bones may be stabilised in their new position with screws or pins. Hardware may even include absorbable pins that are broken down by the body after a few months. You can expect a 6 – 8 week recovery period during which crutches are usually required. Surgery is often successful but sometimes the big toe moves back to its previous deviated position. Proper footwear and orthotics reduces the chances of surgical failure.
Choosing footwear that fits correctly, especially low heeled shoes with plenty of space for the toes, is one of the main ways that bunions can be prevented. Always stand when trying on shoes to ensure they still fit comfortably when the foot expands under your body weight. Try shoes on both feet, and select the size appropriate for your larger foot. Use an extra insole if one shoe is looser than the other. Do not cramp the larger foot. People prone to flat-footedness should consider the use of arch supports, orthotic shoe inserts or special orthotic shoes to prevent or delay the development of bunions.