Home > Common Foot Problems > Bunions


By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 16 May 2012 | comments*Discuss
Bunion; Hallux Valgus; Swelling;

A bunion known medically as a hallux valgus, is a swelling sore area around the large knuckle of the big toe joint. It occurs as the long bone of the toe directs in one direction, and the toe itself pushes inwards towards the rest of the toes resulting in a usually painful deformity.

What Causes A Bunion?

Most experts agree that the cause of a bunion stems from the choice of footwear, though nothing has been medically proven. They tend to occur more often in females and some seem more prone to them than others. Genetics may play a role in the development of bunions as they are often seen recurring throughout generations.

Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis may also contribute to a bunion occurring as the joint becomes swollen, red and painful as a result of the arthritis. Occasionally over-pronation of the foot can be to blame, which is a term given when the foot rolls inwards forcing the natural arch of the foot closer to the floor as occurs in the incidence of flat feet.

Signs And Symptoms

Many people who suffer from bunions do not feel great amounts of pain as the deformity can range widely in severity. Most people do however, find problems in selecting appropriate footwear that fits around the bony prominence that occurs. If ill-fitting footwear is chosen, causing pressure to the area, pain can occur quite easily. For others, the pain can exist at the early stages of development and can continue to be painful until adequate treatment has been sought.

The most common types of pain are related to inflammation and swelling of the joint which can radiate along the entire inside aspect of the foot. Occasionally, if the big toe has been forced into or on top of the second toe, a hammer toe of the second toe can occur. As the toes become cramped and pushed together, changing their original and natural positions, corns and calluses may develop as they encounter more friction when wearing shoes.

Treating Bunions

Initial treatment for a bunion should be as conservative as possible. The most efficient method of relieving bunion pain is to wear shoes that are wide enough to comfortably accommodate the foot.

Many supermarkets and chemists stock a variety of bunion pads which help to cushion and protect the bunion and help prevent hard skin, calluses and corns developing.Many people use a bunion splint which is commonly worn over night and aims to gently correct the deformity by trying to straighten the joint back to its original condition.

Flat feet, or over-pronation can be helped by the use of arch supports or orthotic devices that can be custom made for your needs. Again, consideration to the choice of footwear will be needed if selecting this option.

Exercises will help to keep the joint mobile and supply and will help in increase oxygen and blood flow to the damaged area, alleviating some of the pain and inflammation. Pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications may be used but these are not recommended for long term use and should only be used until a more suitable option has been found.

For those who continue to experience problems after trying all conservative methods, surgery may be an option. The surgeon, will correct the deformity by removing or refashioning the joint and will often need to ‘fix’ the joint, leaving the joint with little or no mobility or movement. Sometimes, the surgeon will need to simply stretch or loosen some of the ligaments surrounding the joint, meaning no operative work on the bony structures will be needed.Surgery may be carried out as either an in-patient or as a day case depending on the overall health of the patient.

Bunions are very common deformities of the foot, affecting the joint of the big toe. Many people live for many years with few problems from the condition, whilst others may suffer a great deal of pain and discomfort.

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