A bunion is a combination of an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe as well as the big toe being angled towards the rest of the toes (this angulation is known as Hallux Valgus). A bunion can lead to other foot deformities and problems such as a hammer toe of the second toe, corns and calluses as well as ingrown toenails. So if the pain isn't enough of a driving factor, the chance of developing these further complications should outline the importance and urgency of seeking treatment with a podiatrist.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, but they tend to run in families. Wearing badly fitting shoes is thought to make bunions worse. It's also thought that bunions are more likely to occur in people with unusually flexible joints, which is why bunions sometimes occur in children. In some cases, certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, may also be responsible.
With Bunions, a person will have inflammation, swelling, and soreness on the side surface of the big toe. Corns most commonly are tender cone-shaped patches of dry skin on the top or side of the toes. Calluses will appear on high-pressure points of the foot as thick hardened patches of skin.
Your doctor is very likely to be able to diagnose your bunion simply by examining your foot. Even before that, he or she will probably ask about your family and personal medical history and evaluate the types of shoes you wear. You'll be asked about your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. You may also be asked to flex your toe so that your doctor can get an idea of your range of motion. He or she may order x-rays in order to determine the extent of your deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Because they are bone deformities, bunions do not resolve by themselves. The goal for bunion treatment is twofold: first, to relieve the pressure and pain caused by irritations, and second to stop any progressive growth of the enlargement. Commonly used methods for reducing pressure and pain caused by bunions include the use of protective padding, often made from felt material, to eliminate the friction against shoes and help alleviate inflammation and skin problems. Removal of corns and calluses on the foot. Changing to carefully fitted footwear designed to accommodate the bunion and not contribute toward its growth. Orthotic devices, both over-the-counter and custom made-to help stabilize the joint and place the foot in the correct position for walking and standing. Exercises to maintain joint mobility and prevent stiffness or arthritis. Splints for nighttime wear to help the toes and joint align properly. This is often recommended for adolescents with bunions, because their bone development may still be adaptable.
When these above measures no longer help to relieve the pain in the big toe, surgery to correct the bunion deformity is considered. Numerous surgical procedures have been recommended for bunions. What is most critical is that the type of deformity is carefully evaluated, because one bunion surgery cannot be used for all types of bunions. If the big toe joint is rotated out of place, the joint must be rotated back in place for the procedure to work. Conversely, a bunion can occur with the big toe still ?in place.? If surgery is considered, the bunion must be corrected with the toe joint left in its current position. In other words, one type of bunion repair does not work for everyone. In all types of bunion repairs, ligaments and tendons (soft tissues) around the big toe joint are reconstructed, to allow the toe to be straightened. Most bunion procedures also require cutting the metatarsal bone, which is then fixed with metal screws to hold the bone in position until it heals. It usually takes 2 to 4 months to fully recover from bunion surgery, which is why it is always the last course of treatment.