Bunions form when the normal balance of forces that is exerted on the joints and foot?s tendons becomes disrupted-leading to foot deformity. They are brought about by years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint. It is acknowledged that bunions run in families. One theory advanced by Dr. Burton S. Schuler, a practicing podiatrist for over 38 years, Director of the Ambulatory Foot Clinic in Panama City, Florida, and author of Why You Really Hurt. It All Stars in the Foot, is that it is not necessarily bunions that are inherited but toe length, which can lead to the development of bunions. Causes
Long periods of pressure from a tight-fitting shoe can cause the inflammation and the pain. This often happens when the big toe is forced into a position where it presses inward and overlaps the second toe. The base of the big toe then is pushed beyond normal alignment of the foot, resulting in the prominence typical of a bunion. Symptoms
Redness, swelling, or pain along the inside margin of the foot just behind the great toe. Moderate to severe discomfort at the bunion when wearing shoes, particularly if tight fitting. A painful callus may develop over the bunion. Sometimes a painful corn on the adjacent sides of the first and second toes. Irritation if there is overlapping of the first and second toes. Arthritis may cause stiffness and discomfort in the joint between the great toe and the first metatarsal. There may be a fluid filled cyst or bursa between the skin and the "bunion bone". Skin over the bunion may break down causing an ulceration, which can become infected. Diagnosis
Bunions are readily apparent, you can see the prominence at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate your condition, the Podiatrist may arrange for x-rays to be taken to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the 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. There is no clear-cut way to predict how fast a bunion will get worse. The severity of the bunion and the symptoms you have will help determine what treatment is recommended for you. Non Surgical Treatment
Wearing the right shoes, using shoe inserts (orthoses) and padding, and taking painkillers can all help to ease your symptoms of a bunion. However, these treatments can?t cure a bunion or stop it getting worse. If you have severe pain or discomfort from a bunion, you may be advised to have an operation to correct it. One of the most important things you can do is to wear the right footwear. You should try to wear flat, wide-fitting shoes with laces or an adjustable strap that fits you properly. You may also want to place a bunion pad over your bunion to give it some protection from the pressure of your shoes. You can usually buy these pads from a pharmacy, or get them from your podiatrist or chiropodist. He or she may also recommend a shoe insert, which can be moulded specifically to your foot. Shoe inserts aim to reduce the pain of your bunion by improving how you walk. You can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help relieve the pain and inflammation of your bunion. Always follow the instructions in the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. Medicines give temporary relief but they won?t be able to cure your bunion or prevent it from getting worse. If you have a bunion as a result of underlying arthritis, your doctor may prescribe specific medicines to treat this. Surgical Treatment
An operation may be advised if a change of footwear does not ease symptoms. The aim of the operation is to straighten the joint as much as possible and relieve pain. It is not usually done just to improve appearance. It can be done using a local or a general anaesthetic and you are usually out of hospital the same day. The operation chosen by the specialist depends on the severity of the bunion, the shape of your foot, and other factors, such as if you have arthritis in the joint. There are many different types of operation which are used to treat bunions. These range from operations to trim parts of the joint, to a total artificial replacement of the big toe joint (similar to a knee or a hip replacement). A common surgical procedure used is called a scarf osteotomy (osteotomy means a cut in the bone). An operation is usually successful at easing symptoms, but not in all cases. It is not always possible to relieve the pain completely or make the toe perfectly straight. Your specialist will be able to advise on the pros and cons of surgery, and the success rate of the chosen operation. Continued pain, infection and the bunion returning are some of the complications of surgery of which you need to be aware. You will need to continue to wear sensible, wide-fitting shoes for six months after the operation. Prevention
The best way to prevent a bunion is to be proactive in the truest sense of the word. Go over your risk factors. If you know that you pronate or have any problem with the mechanics of your foot, talk with a podiatric physician about the correct types of shoes and/or orthoses for you. If you are not sure whether you have such a problem, the podiatric professional can analyze your foot, your stride and the wear pattern of your shoes, and give you an honest evaluation. Has anyone in your family complained of bunions? Does your job involve a lot of standing, walking or other stress on your feet or toes? Do you exercise? If so, what kind of shoes do you wear for sports? For work? For school? Do you ever feel pain in your toes, or have you noticed a pronounced or increased redness on your big toe, or on the other side of your foot, near your little toe? Make sure you let the doctor know. Keep track of whether any relatives have suffered from arthritis or other joint problems, as well as anything else that might be relevant to your podiatric health. If you?ve suffered sports injuries previously, let the doctor know about that, too. In other words, try to give your health care professional the most honest and thorough background you can, so that he or she can make the best evaluation possible.