You may not be familiar with the name Hallux Valgus but you will almost certainly have heard of the word “bunion”.
It describes the bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. Bunions are the result of the bones in your foot moving out of place causing deformity. As your big toe is pulled inwards towards the other toes, it forces the joint at the base of your big toe outwards.
As well as affecting the natural shape of your foot, bunions can be painful, causing swelling, redness, loss of movement and associated lesser toe deformities.
Causes of bunions
Experts are unsure precisely what causes bunions to develop but several factors may play a part including:
- Genetics – if you inherit a particular foot type you are more likely to develop bunions.
- Being born with foot deformity.
- Injury to your foot.
- Wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow, or high heels may contribute to the development of bunions although expert opinion is divided.
- Arthritis may increase the risk, particularly rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of bunions
The following symptoms may indicate you have a bunion:
- A bulge on the base of your big toe on the outside of your foot.
- Swelling or redness around the joint.
- Pain that may be constant or intermittent. This can interfere with your everyday life and may make it difficult to participate in certain sports that involve running or jumping.
- Calluses and corns caused by the toes rubbing against each other.
- Loss of movement in your big toe.
- Problems finding shoes that fit and don’t cause discomfort.
You may seek medical help because you are struggling with footwear, or because you are in pain, or have lost movement in your foot or big toe. Bunions generally worsen as time goes on and while you may not seek help initially, you may decide to do so if your symptoms become more severe.
Diagnosis of bunions
Your doctor will carry out a physical examination and may also refer you for an X-ray to help determine the best type of treatment.
Treatment of bunions
There are a number of different approaches to treating bunions. Surgery is normally only recommended once other, less invasive treatments have been tried. To manage a bunion yourself, try switching to more comfortable shoes that don’t squash your toes. You can buy bunion pads over the counter which act as a cushion between the bunion and your shoes and can ease some of the pain. Padded shoe inserts and orthotic devices may also help. Ice can help to relieve some of the swelling and bring down redness although this is not recommended for people with poor circulation.
If you are still experiencing pain and loss of movement, you may need surgery. A single surgical procedure or combination may be used, depending on the extent of the problem. Surgery may involve: straightening your big toe by removing part of the bone; removing swollen tissue from around the big toe joint; fusing the bones of the joint permanently or realigning one or more of the bones in the foot to correct the deformity in your big toe joint.
It can take several weeks to recover fully from surgery and you will need to wear comfortable shoes after surgery to prevent recurrence of the bunion.
Bunions can be painful and debilitating but there are treatments available that can help. Talk to your doctor who can provide a diagnosis and recommend a specialist course of treatment.
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