When your big toe is angled towards the second toe, the deformity is called a bunion (hallux valgus). This causes a bump on the side at the base of the big toe. In addition there is often thickening of the skin and tissues next to the affected joint. The thickened skin and tissues may become inflamed, swollen and painful. Sometimes a fluid-filled sac (bursa) develops over the joint.
Long periods of pressure from a tight-fitting shoe can cause the inflammation and the pain. This often happens when the big toe is forced into a position where it presses inward and overlaps the second toe. The base of the big toe then is pushed beyond normal alignment of the foot, resulting in the prominence typical of a bunion.
SymptomsMany people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of bunion formation. Symptoms are often most noticeable when the bunion gets worse and with certain types of footwear. These include shoes that crowd the toes and/or high-heeled shoes. When symptoms do occur, they may include physical discomfort or pain. A burning feeling. Redness and swelling. Possible numbness. Difficulty walking.
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
Treatment falls into two broad categories, conservative and surgical. From a conservative standpoint, efforts are directed at correcting faulty foot mechanics with custom molded insoles and relief of symptoms. These include Custom Orthosis to stabilize the abnormal motion of the hind and fore foot. Shoe gear modification: Using shoes with larger toe boxed and more supple materials. Changes in activities. Try to avoid those things which cause symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medication for periodic relief this includes cortisone injections into the joint as well as oral medication.
Surgery can be a very successful treatment for bunions and could be considered if you are having pain that is affecting your function on a regular basis, for instance, pain during sports or wearing work shoes. It is important, however, that you are seen by a consultant orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon who has undergone specialist training with a foot and ankle fellowship. There are many different surgical techniques and it is important that your surgeon is expert in several of these so that you have the one that is best for your unique deformity. Bunion removal is usually done under general anesthesia. This means you will be asleep throughout the procedure. The operation can be performed as a day-case, but an overnight stay in hospital is sometimes required. Your surgeon will explain the benefits and risks of having bunion surgery, and will also discuss the alternatives treatments.
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