A bunion refers to a deformity in which the great toe points toward the second toe instead of pointing ahead. The result of this is a “bump” on the side of the big toe. The formal name for this is hallux valgus.
Symptoms of a bunion include pain, discomfort, redness overlying the skin of the deformity, blisters, burning and numbness. The development of a bunion is a progressive disorder in which the deformity occurs overtime and symptoms often appear later in the disease process.
Wearing shoes that are tight around the toes can aggravate this condition. High heels and a small toe box, which is common in women’s fashion, can also lead to this condition. Not surprisingly, bunions are more common in women than men. There may be genetic component to bunions as certain foot types may pre-dispose someone to develop a bunion. Flatfoot deformity and over-pronation are included in these foot types.
Bunions are diagnosed by physical examination. The deformity is usually obvious upon inspection of the foot. X-rays may also be recommended to evaluate the degree of deformity and underlying bony changes.
Treatment for a bunion is based on the degree of deformity and symptoms. Non-surgical treatments are aimed at alleviating the pain and preventing further progression. Activity modification, shoe wear changes, and the application of a special bunion pad is often the first line of treatment. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) may also be recommended to reduce inflammation and pain. A toe spacer or other orthotic devices may be prescribed.
Surgery may be recommended for this condition if non-surgical treatments fail to control symptoms and the bunion interferes with daily activities. A bunionectomy is the general term for the surgical procedure to correct the deformity and realign the great toe. There are several different techniques available. An orthopaedic surgeon trained in foot and ankle surgery performs this type of procedure.