Bunions are bony bumps that form on the side of the big toe joint or baby toe joint (these are commonly called ?bunionettes? or ?tailor?s bunions?). Bunions most commonly result from one or more of the following factors: genetics, faulty foot mechanics like over-pronation, and/or long periods of time spent in improperly fitting footwear. Bunions can start with audible clicking (called ?crepitus?) and/or stiffness in the affected joint which indicates that the joint surfaces are rubbing together improperly. This may progress to include inflammation, degeneration of the surfaces of the joint, deformity (including bone growth at the joint line and displacement of the toe) and ultimately, loss of range of motion in the joint.
Women traditionally have a higher rate of bunions, which is to be expected, since it is they who have traditionally worn shoes with high heels, a narrow toe box, or whatever fashion dictates from year to year. However, men can suffer from bunions as well, as can anyone for whom the right (or wrong) conditions exist, poor foot mechanics, improper footwear, occupational hazards, health and genetic predisposition. Finally, bunions have long been a condition associated with the elderly, and although they often appear in conjunction with inflammatory joint diseases such as arthritis (which is often associated with age), they can strike at any point in life, including adolescence.
Bunions may or may not cause symptoms. A frequent symptom is foot pain in the involved area when walking or wearing shoes that is relieved by resting. A bunion causes enlargement of the base of the big toe and is usually associated with positioning of the big toe toward the smaller toes. This leads to intermittent or chronic pain at the base of the big toe. Bunions that cause marked pain are often associated with swelling of the soft tissues, redness, and local tenderness. It is important to note that, in post-pubertal men and post-menopausal women, pain at the base of the big toe can be caused by gout and gouty arthritis that is similar to the pain caused by bunions.
A simple visual exam is all it will take for your doctor to determine whether you have a bunion. He or she may also ask you to move your big toe in order to ascertain your range of motion. Your doctor may also look for any inflammation, redness, or pain. X-rays can help your doctor determine the severity and cause of the bunion. Your doctor may also ask you questions about your footwear, the symptoms you are experiencing, and if other family members also suffer from the condition. All these factors will help him or her diagnose you properly.
Non Surgical Treatment
Somtimes observation of the bunion is all that?s needed. A periodic exam and x-ray can determine if your bunion deformity is advancing. Measures can then be taken to reduce the possibility of permanent damage to your joint. In many cases, however, some type of treatment is needed. Conservative treatments may help reduce the pain of a bunion. These options include changes in shoe-wear. Wearing the right kind of shoes is very important. Choose shoes with a large toe box and avoid narrow high heeled shoes which may aggravate the condition. Padding. Pads can be placed over the area to reduce shoe pressure. Medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help reduce inflammation and reduce pain. Injection therapy. Injection of steroid medication may be used to treat inflammation that causes pain and swelling especially if a fluid filled sac has developed about the joint. Orthotic shoe inserts. By controlling the faulty mechanical forces the foot may be stabilized so that the bunion becomes asymptomatic.
Bunion surgery is occasionally required when the bunion deformity is too advanced for conservative treatment to work. Your surgeon will usually cut an angular section from the bone to correct the alignment. In some cases, multiple toes may need to be straighten.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing a bunion is to wear shoes that fit properly. Any shoe that is too tight or too high will force your toes together and may cause the condition to develop. Shoes need to be wide enough, so they aren't rubbing against the joint, and preferably made of leather. Avoid shoes with a lot elaborate stitching at the front, as this can also cause irritation. Heels should be no more than three to four inches and you should only wear them occasionally. Court shoes should seldomly be worn, as they do not give the foot any support. Be honest with yourself, you know if your shoes aren't fitting you comfortably. Do something about it, or you will suffer for your vanity.