Though a bunion is often described as a painful bump, this condition is much more complex than a simple bump on the side of the toe. X-rays show the true nature of the deformity and are used to help in the decision making process. Ranges of motion of joints associated with the toe are also performed to assess the deformity. There are many procedures for correcting a bunion and choosing the right one based on the examination increases the chance of success. The procedure performed on one person may not be the procedure required to give another a good result. In general, more severe bunion deformities require more extensive surgery and more extensive post-operative limitations. It is very important to note that the same instability and incorrect motion that causes a bunion also causes degeneration of the joint surfaces (osteoarthritis). Correction of the bunion cannot repair the damage done within the joint and continued pain from that separate process may occur. Realigning the joint may slow the damage within the joint and improve motion, but it may not alleviate all pain.
Bunions are most often caused by faulty mechanics of the foot. The deformity runs in families, but it is the foot type that is hereditary, not the bunion.Certain foot types make a person prone to developing a bunion. Injury can be a cause, especially if just one foot is involved. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won?t actually cause bunions in the first place, it can make the deformity progressively worse. That means you may expererince symptoms sooner.
SymptomsThe most common complaint with bunions is pain that develops over the large bump due to shoe pressure. A red, inflamed area can develop, called a bursa. With ongoing pressure, the inflammation can cause throbbing, as it presses against the blood vessels, or swelling in the joint. Shooting pains occur when the swelling presses against the nerve. If left untreated, the constant irritation can lead to arthritis that breaks down the joint, resulting in pain and stiffness.
X-rays are the best way to determine the amount of deformity of the MTP joint. Blood work may be required to rule out other diseases that may be associated with bunions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Other tests such as bone scans or MRI’s are not usually required.
Non Surgical Treatment
Long-term treatment of bunions must be directed towards re-balancing the foot, so that we no longer walk with our weight forced on to the inner border of the foot. This is accomplished by controlling and reducing pronation with the use of a high quality arch support or custom made orthotics. These devices comfortably re-balance the feet and overcome pronation. This reduces the abnormal weight forces on the big toe and its metatarsal head, allowing the feet to function normally. As a result, the deformity should not worsen, and the pain should gradually subside. If the foot is not re-balanced, the deformity and pain will become worse.
The type of surgical procedure performed depends upon the severity of the bunion, the individual?s age, general health, activity level, and the condition of the bones and connective tissue. Other factors may influence the choice of a procedure used. Mild bunion. For this type of surgery, the surgeon may remove the enlarged portion of bone and realign the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the joint. Moderate bunion. For a moderate bunion, the surgeon may cut the bone and shift it to its proper position. Whether or not the bone is cut depends on the severity and location of the deformity. In addition, the surrounding tendons and ligaments may need to be repositioned. Severe bunion. For a severe bunion, surgery may involve removing the enlarged portion of the bone, cutting and realigning the bone, and correcting the position of the tendons and ligaments. Arthritic bunion or big toe joint. If the joint is damaged beyond repair, as is commonly seen in arthritis, it may need to be reconstructed or replaced with an artificial joint. Joint replacement implants may be used in the reconstruction of the big toe joint.
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.