A bunion is a bump near the big toe joint. It may or may not involve movement of the big toe towards the second toe.
A bunion or bunion deformity can be present from birth, but most often it occurs over time in an adult. Structural problems in the feet lead to irritation and deformity of the big toe joint.
The joint at the base of the big toe is made up of two bones. One extends from the arch of the foot and the other connects to the big toe. The two bones meet in a joint near the "ball" of the foot.
In some persons, the bone from the arch tends to turn outward and the toe bone tends to turn inward, toward the second toe. This may be caused by a familial tendency, by unstable arches, or by wearing ill-fitting shoes.
After many years, the joint becomes irritated, causing more bone to form in this area. This leads to irritation of the soft tissues that cover the bones. The whole area becomes inflamed, or swollen, and is pushed against the side of the shoe. This, in turn, leads to more irritation and swelling and eventually to the painful condition known as a bunion.
The most common symptoms from a bunion are: a painful bump at the base of the big toe jointa big toe that rubs against the second toe, causing a painful callus, or thickened skina big toe that slides under the second toe, causing the second toe to be pushed against the top of the shoe, creating a painful callus
Persons who have poor blood circulation or a loss of sensation in the feet can be at risk for other problems if they have bunions. Loss of circulation can lead to problems in healing simple skin damage, such as a blister, that can become infected.
Loss of sensation, which occurs in many conditions, but most commonly in diabetes, can lead to a person being unaware of significant damage to his or her feet. This also may allow for an infection to develop. If the infection gets into the bone, part or all of the foot or even the leg may have to be amputated.
The best way to prevent a bunion is to wear shoes that support the arch and are roomy enough so they do not squeeze the toes together.
A person should avoid wearing shoes with pointed toes or high heels. Arch supports, especially prescription arch inlays or orthotics, can help keep a bunion from forming. These can also reduce pain by preventing the foot from rolling to the inside.
Various bunion pads are available that can simply keep pressure off the bump and minimize pain.
Bunions that do not respond to these simple measures are usually treated with surgery.
A key member of the foot healthcare team is the person who fits shoes, or a pedorthist. Many independent, full-service shoe stores have pedorthists who can properly fit a person with the correct style of shoe. A pedorthist can also make changes to shoes for the best comfort.
A podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon who specializes in foot care is needed for more complicated treatments. This may include custom-made foot orthotics or surgery.
A healthcare professional can diagnose a bunion with a physical examination of the foot and by the symptoms a person is having. X-rays help to confirm the diagnosis.
Bunions that are left untreated continue to get worse and can make it very painful to walk. Also, it is difficult to exercise if the foot or feet are in pain.
Persons with painful bunions should see a healthcare professional to be evaluated. Appropriate therapy will allow people with bunions to remain physically active and avoid the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle.
Persons who have poor blood circulation or a loss of sensation in the feet can be at risk for other problems if they have bunions. Loss of circulation can lead to problems in healing simple skin damage, such as a blister. This can lead to infection. Loss of sensation, which occurs in many conditions, but most commonly in diabetes, can lead to a person being unaware of significant damage to his or her feet. This also may allow for an infection to develop. If the infection gets into the bone, part or all of the foot or even the leg may have to be amputated.
People who know they have a tendency to form a bunion should be treated promptly. The method of treatment to be used first is with arch supports or custom-made foot orthotics. These supports help to manage the abnormal foot structure.
Other treatments include: wearing wide shoes or having shoes stretched to prevent pressure in the area of the big toe.using braces to try and bring the big toe back into alignment. The braces are effective, but they are hard to wear.bunion repair surgery, if other methods have failed to correct the problem.
There are usually no side effects with nonsurgical treatments. Surgery may be complicated by: stomach upset from the anesthesiapossible allergic reaction to the anesthesiapossible bleeding or infection at the surgery site
Treatment is usually ongoing. It involves protecting the area to prevent symptoms or continuing to wear arch supports or foot orthotics.