The bunion, or hallux valgus, is a condition that affects the bones and joints associated with the great toe. It is one of the most common deformities of the forefoot. The condition develops slowly and results from the gradual dislocation of the joint, usually because of instability during gait. There is a displacement of the first metatarsal bone toward the mid-line of the body, and a simultaneous displacement of the great toe away from the mid-line (and toward the smaller toes). This causes a prominence of bone on the inside (medial) margin of the forefoot, this is termed a bunion. As the deformity progresses, the big toe will shift toward the outside of the foot. In severe cases, the big toe will actually overlap or under lap the second toe. It is often of a hereditary nature, but it is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases. There are no exercises, splints or other devices that reliably correct a bunion. Orthotics can sometimes slow or halt the progression by addressing the instability which causes the deformity, but they cannot reduce the deformity.
Women tend to suffer from bunions more often than men, probably because of the shoes they wear. But besides shoes, standing on the feet for long periods of time can also make symptoms of a bunion worse. Along with the bump, these bunion symptoms include pain or soreness, swelling, redness around the joint, a burning sensation or sometimes numbness. The big toe may develop calluses or not be able to move as well as it once did. Sores between the toes and ingrown toenails may also occur because of a bunion.
SymptomsIf a foot bunion is developing, you may experience some of these symptoms. Bulge or bump on the outside of the base of your big toe. Swelling. Redness. Soreness. Thickening of the skin in that location. Corns or calluses. Limited movement of your big toe. Persistent or periodic pain. The pain you experience may be mild or severe. It may become increasingly difficult to walk in your normal shoes. The pressure on your other toes can cause your toenails to grow inward or your smaller toes to become bent.
Before examining your foot, the doctor will ask you about the types of shoes you wear and how often you wear them. He or she also will ask if anyone else in your family has had bunions or if you have had any previous injury to the foot. In most cases, your doctor can diagnose a bunion just by examining your foot. During this exam, you will be asked to move your big toe up and down to see if you can move it as much as you should be able to. The doctor also will look for signs of redness and swelling and ask if the area is painful. Your doctor may want to order X-rays of the foot to check for other causes of pain, to determine whether there is significant arthritis and to see if the bones are aligned properly.
Non Surgical Treatment
A bunion may only need to be treated if it's severe and causing significant pain and discomfort. The different treatments for bunions are described below. If possible, non-surgical treatment for bunions will be used, which your GP can discuss with you. Non-surgical treatments can ease the pain and discomfort caused by a bunion, but they can't change the shape of your foot or prevent a bunion from getting worse over time. Non-surgical treatments include painkillers, bunion pads, orthotics, wearing suitable footwear, These are discussed in more detail below. If your bunion is painful, over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may be recommended.Bunion pads may also ease the pain of a bunion. Reusable bunion pads, made of either gel or fleece, are available over the counter from pharmacies. Some are adhesive and stick over the bunion, while others are held against your foot by a small loop that fits over your big toe. Bunion pads stop your foot rubbing on your shoe and relieve the pressure over the enlarged joint at the base of your big toe. Orthotics are placed inside your shoes to help realign the bones of your foot. They may help relieve the pressure on your bunion, which can ease the pain. However, there's little evidence that orthotics are effective in the long term. It's important that the orthotic fits properly, so you may want to seek advice from your GP or podiatrist (a specialist in diagnosing and treating foot conditions), who can suggest the best ones for you.
Bunion surgery involves realigning the joint into a better position. The procedure is usually performed under a general anaesthetic so the patient is not awake during the operation. A bunion causes a prominent bone over the inside of the joint between the foot and the big toe known as the 1st metatarso-phalangeal joint. It gives the appearance of the big toe pointing in towards the others. Surgery is a last resort treatment option in severe cases where walking or wearing shoes is painful.
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