Hallux abductovalgus (HAV) or bunion, is a commonly seen deformity of the first metatarsophalangeal joint (MPJ) in which the hallux is abducted and everted, frequently overriding the second toe. Although the terms HAV and bunion are often used synonymously (as is done in this paper), it should be noted that a bunion actually refers to the callus and inflamed adventitious bursa overlying the HAV deformity. Even though bunions have been described in the medical literature for several hundred years (the word bunion is believed to be derived from the Latin, bunio, meaning turnip), there continues to be much controversy concerning its etiology. This is most likely because the development of HAV is multifactorial, stemming from a variety of structural and functional aberrancies.
Despite the popular belief, wearing high heels and too-narrow shoes does not cause bunions. Wearing them can irritate, aggravate, or accelerate the formation of the bunion, but are not the root cause. Bunions are more commonly inherited, if your parents or grandparents had bunions, you may also get one. Bunions can also be caused by trauma or injury to the joints, ligaments, or bones of the foot.
With an advanced bunion, the big toe joint can be significantly deformed. The big toe can crowd the other toes and may lie over or under the second toe. The larger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Wearing any type of shoe can be painful. Symptoms of bunions tend to increase over time as the condition worsens. Typical symptoms include deformity of the big toe joint. Growth of a bony lump (exostosis) at the side of the big toe joint. Pain, redness and tissue swelling (bursitis) over the big toe joint, with thickening of overlying skin. Pain when walking (particularly during the "push off" phase). Overlapping of the big toe above or below the second toe in severe cases.
Bunions are readily apparent - the prominence is visible at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate the condition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays 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. Once your surgeon has evaluated your bunion, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.
Non Surgical Treatment
In most cases the symptoms of bunions can be reduced or relieved without surgery. Reducing pressure on the bunion is the first step in reducing the pain associated with the condition. Wearing correctly fitting shoes is important in achieving this. A referral to a podiatrist may be made in order to assess the need for special orthotic devices, such as custom-made arch supports and shoe inserts (eg: metatarsal pad or bar). These can help to relieve tension on the base of the big toe and help prevent flat-footedness. Specific exercises and bunion pads available over-the-counter at pharmacies may also be of benefit. Anti-inflammatory medicines can help to ease pain in the short term. Steroid injections may be used to relieve severe pain. If a sufficient reduction in symptoms is not achieved by non-surgical treatment, then surgery may be recommended.
If nonsurgical treatment fails, you may want to consider surgery. Many studies have found that 85 to 90 percent of patients who undergo bunion surgery are satisfied with the results. Reasons that you may benefit from bunion surgery commonly include severe foot pain that limits your everyday activities, including walking and wearing reasonable shoes. You may find it hard to walk more than a few blocks (even in athletic shoes) without significant pain. Chronic big toe inflammation and swelling that doesn't improve with rest or medications. Toe deformity-a drifting in of your big toe toward the small toes. Toe stiffness-inability to bend and straighten your toe. Failure to obtain pain relief from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Their effectiveness in controlling toe pain varies greatly from person to person. Failure to substantially improve with other treatments such as a change in shoes and anti-inflammatory medication. As you explore bunion surgery, be aware that so-called "simple" or "minimal" surgical procedures are often inadequate "quick fixes" that can do more harm than good. And beware of unrealistic claims that surgery can give you a "perfect" foot. The goal of surgery is to relieve as much pain, and correct as much deformity as is realistically possible. It is not meant to be cosmetic.
The simplest way to reduce your chance of developing foot bunion or bunionette problems is to wear good-fitting shoes. Avoid high heels as they push your feet forwards to the front of the shoe where they get squashed. Also avoid narrow fitting shoes, especially those that are pointed at the front with a narrow toe box as again, these place pressure through the toes pushing them inwards. Shoes should be comfortable and leave enough room for you to wiggle your toes. Remember, bunions rarely affect non-shoe wearing people. Exercising your feet can also help. By strengthening the foot muscles you can improve your foot position which can help reduce foot bunion problems. Simple exercises like picking up small objects with your toes can help.