The foot is made up of many small bones that sit perfectly together forming many joints. The big toe joint comprises of the first metatarsal and the proximal (close) phalanx of the toe. A bunion forms when base of the toe (first metatarsal) drifts away from the second metatarsal. The 1st metatarsal rotates and drops and so no longer sits in its correct alignment. The tip of the first toe then rotates and drifts inwards. Overtime, under the continuing stress of this altered position of the joint and the irritation that this causes, the joint can become inflamed.
The commonest cause of bunions is prolonged wearing of poorly designed shoes such as the narrow high heels that women wear. This is one of the reasons why bunions are much more common in women than in men. There is also a hereditary component to bunions in that many times we will see a grandmother, mother and daughter all with various stages of bunions. 38% of women in the United States wear shoes that are too small and 55% of women have some degree of bunion formation. Bunions are 9 times more common in women than they are in men.
SymptomsThe main sign of a bunion is the big toe pointing towards the other toes on the same foot, which may force the foot bone attached to it (the first metatarsal) to stick outwards. Other symptoms may include a swollen, bony bump on the outside edge of your foot, pain and swelling over your big toe joint that’s made worse by pressure from wearing shoes, hard, callused and red skin caused by your big toe and second toe overlapping, sore skin over the top of the bunion, changes to the shape of your foot, making it difficult to find shoes that fit. These symptoms can sometimes get worse if the bunion is left untreated, so it’s best to see a GP. They’ll ask you about your symptoms and examine your foot. In some cases, an X-ray may be recommended to assess the severity of your bunion. Anyone can develop a bunion, but they’re more common in women than men. This may be because of the style of footwear that women wear.
Your doctor is very likely to be able to diagnose your bunion simply by examining your foot. Even before that, he or she will probably ask about your family and personal medical history and evaluate the types of shoes you wear. You’ll be asked about your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. You may also be asked to flex your toe so that your doctor can get an idea of your range of motion. He or she may order x-rays in order to determine the extent of your deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions may be treated conservatively with changes in shoe gear, different orthotics (accommodative padding and shielding), rest, ice and medications. These sorts of treatments address symptoms more than they correct the actual deformity. Surgery, by an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatric surgeon, may be necessary if discomfort is severe enough or when correction of the deformity is desired. Orthotics are splints or regulators while conservative measures include various footwear like gelled toe spacers, bunion toes separators, bunion regulators, bunion splints and bunion cushions. There are a variety of available orthotics (or orthoses) including over-the-counter or off-the-shelf commercial products and as necessary, custom-molded orthotics that are generally prescribed medical devices.
One of the more popular proximal metatarsal osteotomies that is performed is called the Myerson/Ludloff procedure. This operation is performed for more advanced deformity. Screws are inserted into the metatarsal to hold the bone cut secure and speed up bone healing. Walking is permitted in a surgical shoe following surgery. The shoe is worn approximately 5 weeks.