A bunion is an enlargement of bone at the great toe joint. Tight shoes don't cause bunions, but they can aggravate them. Bunions are often inherited and become worse over time if left untreated they can cause pain, swelling, skin irritation and other foot problems. Bunion deformities are often part of a more generalized problem related to improper foot motion. There are presently over 25 types of bunion procedures performed today. The choice of procedure is based on many factors.
Causes of bunions and risk factors for bunions include a family tendency to bunions may make them more likely to develop. Arthritis of the foot, if it affects walking, it can make bunions more likely to develop. Neuromuscular problems, such as cerebral palsy. Biomechanical factors, such as low arches, flat feet and hypermobile joints, can increase the risk. Wearing shoes that are too tight, too narrow and with pointed toes will exacerbate symptoms if bunions are present. Wearing high heels will also exacerbate existing bunions. Women are more prone to bunions than men.
Red, thickened skin along the inside edge of the big toe. A bony bump at this site. Pain over the joint, which pressure from shoes makes worse. Big toe turned toward the other toes and may cross over the second toe.
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
Several things can be done to help relive the pain of bunions. These won't make the bunion go away, but they can make the foot more comfortable. Wearing different shoes. Shoes with a wide toe box rather than a pointed one will help. Shoes with lower heels will also help. (High heels throw more of the body's weight on the front part of the foot where the toe joints are.) Padding. Pads placed over the bunion may help reduce the pain. These are available from a drug store or may be available from a foot and ankle surgeon. Avoiding activities that make the pain worse. This includes standing for a long time or other activities that make the bunion sore. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These include aspirin or ibuprofen. They relieve pain and swelling. Applying an ice pack to reduce swelling and pain. Corticosteroid injections. These are not often used in bunion treatment. Injecting corticosteroids sometimes helps if the bursa is inflamed. (Bursa is a fluid-filled sac within a joint to cushion the bones). Orthotic devices. These are devices placed inside a shoe that shift the positioning of the foot. Orthotics help compensate for structural issues that cause foot problems.
If the above simple measures do not make you comfortable, an operation may improve the situation. An operation will not give you an entirely normal foot, but it will correct the deformity of the big toe and narrow your foot back towards a more desirable shape. There are a lot of different operations for bunions, depending on the severity of the deformity, the shape of your foot and whether arthritis has developed in the big toe joint. An orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in foot & ankle surgery can advise you on the best operation for your foot. However, an operation may not make your foot narrow enough to wear tight shoes, nor can it fully restore the strength of the big toe.