A bunion is a growth of skin at the joint of the big toe, often a result of enlarged tissue or misaligned bone. In some cases, the bunion may be so extreme that it pushes the big toe inward toward the second toe. Skin and tissue surrounding the joint may experience sensitivity to touch, tenderness and pain.
Bunions have a number of causes, primarily genetics and bad choices in footwear. We inherit traits like flat feet, abnormal bone structure, and loose ligaments and tendons from our parents. When our feet are weakened by these traits and we stuff them into high heels or shoes which don?t support our feet correctly, the repeated stress on the front of the foot may contribute to the formation of a bunion. Other contributing factors are jobs that demand a lot of time standing, obesity, and sudden hormonal changes and weight gain, as in pregnancy. Unfortunately, bunions can lead to many other foot conditions as well. The joint behind the big toe carries much of your body weight and when the bunion makes it sore, you shift your weight onto other areas of the foot. That?s why we frequently see crossover toes, overlapping toes, hammer toes, corns, calluses, and ingrown toenails accompanying bunions. As pain in your foot increases, you?ll also reduce your activity, becoming more sedentary, which has its own quality-of-life issues.
SymptomsSymptoms of a bunion include irritated skin, sensitivity to touch, and pain when walking or running. Since the bunion may grow so prominent as to affect the shape of the foot, shoes may no longer fit properly, and blisters may form at the site of friction and pressure. Bunions may grow so large that an individual must wear shoes that are a larger size than they would otherwise wear. If the bunion becomes a severe case, walking may become difficult.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose a bunion by asking about your symptoms and examining your feet. You may also have blood tests to rule out any other medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, although this is rare. Your doctor may refer you to a podiatrist or chiropodist (healthcare professionals who specialise in conditions that affect the feet).
Non Surgical Treatment
Because they are bone deformities, bunions do not resolve by themselves. The goal for bunion treatment is twofold: first, to relieve the pressure and pain caused by irritations, and second to stop any progressive growth of the enlargement. Commonly used methods for reducing pressure and pain caused by bunions include the use of protective padding, often made from felt material, to eliminate the friction against shoes and help alleviate inflammation and skin problems. Removal of corns and calluses on the foot. Changing to carefully fitted footwear designed to accommodate the bunion and not contribute toward its growth. Orthotic devices, both over-the-counter and custom made-to help stabilize the joint and place the foot in the correct position for walking and standing. Exercises to maintain joint mobility and prevent stiffness or arthritis. Splints for nighttime wear to help the toes and joint align properly. This is often recommended for adolescents with bunions, because their bone development may still be adaptable.
Bunion surgery generally involves repositioning the maligned bones with a bone cut (osteotomy) and/or bone mending procedure (fusion). As such, the time it takes for bones to set or mend in the corrected position generally takes six weeks. Smokers and those in poor medical health may take longer to mend the bone. The biology of bone healing is about six weeks, that time frame can't be made quicker. What can be changed is the disability that one experiences while the bone is mending.
If the diagnosis is made early on, such as in preadolescence, bunion development can be slowed and in some cases arrested with the proper supportive shoe gear and custom functional shoe inserts (orthotics). Avoidance of certain athletic activities with improper shoe fit and toe pressure can prevent the symptoms that occur with bunions.