A bunion, which is also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus, is often described as a bump on the side of the big toe. However, a bunion is actually more complicated than just a “bump.” The visible bump actually reflects changes in the bony framework of the front part of the foot as the big toe starts leaning toward the second toe rather than pointing straight ahead. This throws the bones out of alignment – producing the bunion’s “bump.”
Signs and Symptoms of Bunions
Bunions are a progressive disorder that will gradually worsen over time. The condition slowly changes the angle of the bones over several years until a prominent bump becomes noticeable. In many cases, the patient may not even be aware of their condition as symptoms don’t usually appear until the later stages of the disorder.
When they do arise, however, the signs and symptoms of bunions typically include:
- Pain or soreness in the area
- Inflammation and redness in the are
- A burning sensation
In addition, spending long periods of time on your feet can aggravate the symptoms of bunions.
What Causes Bunions to Form?
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing them. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t usually cause bunions, it sometimes makes the deformity get progressively worse. This may explain why women are more likely to have symptoms than men.
How are Bunions Diagnosed?
Bunions are readily apparent – the prominence is visible at the base of the big toe or the side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate the condition, your foot and ankle surgeon may request x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess any changes that have occurred.
Because bunions are progressive, they don’t go away, and will usually get worse over time. But, not all cases are alike – some bunions progress more rapidly than others. Once your surgeon has evaluated your bunion, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.
Treatment Options for Bunions
In the majority of cases, conservative treatments to help reduce the pain associated with the bunion and periodic evaluation are all that’s required. To reduce the chance of damage to the joint, however; ongoing periodic evaluation and x-rays by your surgeon may be advised. Conservative treatments typically include:
- Custom orthotic devices
- A change in shoe wear (wearing shoes with wide toe boxes rather than pointed shoes)
- Padding placed over the bunion to help minimize pain
- Changes in your activities
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Applying ice to the affected area
- Corticosteroid injections (rare)
When Is Surgery Needed?
Bunion pain is usually effectively reduced by conservative treatments. But, if those treatments fail to relieve the pain and that pain interferes with your daily activities, then it’s time to discuss surgical options with your foot and ankle surgeon. Together, you can decide if surgery is best for you.
Pennsylvania Foot and Ankle Associates offer a variety of surgical procedures to treat patients suffering from painful bunions. Our procedures are designed to remove the “bump” of bone, correct the changes in the bony structure of the foot, and correct any soft tissue changes that may also have occurred. The primary goal of surgery is the reduction of pain.
In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, your foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.