A bunion or hallux abducto valgus occurs when your big toe points toward your second toe. The big toe will touch the second or causes the second toe to overlap the big toe. This causes a boney bump to appear on the outside edge of your big toe. Bunions are more common in women and can sometimes run in families. Hallux abducto valgus can develop as a result of an inherited structural defect or stress on your foot or due to a medical condition such as arthritis. If there is an underlying structural defect in your foot this can lead to compensations causing stresses and pressures to be applied unevenly on the joints and tendons in your feet. This imbalance in pressure and stress makes your big toe joint unstable. Over time this causes the medial side of the 1st metatarsal head to develop excess bone that protrudes out beyond the normal shape of your foot. The size of the bunion can get larger over time which causes further crowding your other toes and causing pain. Pain from a bunion can be severe enough to keep you from walking comfortably in normal shoes. The condition may become painful as the bump gets worse, and extra bone and a fluid-filled sac (bursa) grow at the base of the big toe. By pushing your big toe inward, a bunion can squeeze your other toes into abnormal positions. This crowding can cause the four smaller toes to become bent or a claw-like in shape. These bent toes are known as hammertoes. Smaller bunions called ?bunionettes? can also develop on the joint of your 5th toe.
Causes of bunions are foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders, or congenital deformities. People who suffer from flat feet or low arches are also prone to developing these problems, as are arthritic patients and those with inflammatory joint disease. Occupations that place undue stress on the feet are also a factor; ballet dancers, for instance, often develop the condition. Wearing shoes that are too tight or cause the toes to be squeezed together is also a common factor, one that explains the high prevalence of the disorder among women.
The symptoms of hallux valgus usually center on the bunion. The bunion is painful. The severe hallux valgus deformity is also distressing to many and becomes a cosmetic problem. Finding appropriate shoe wear can become difficult, especially for women who want to be fashionable but have difficulty tolerating fashionable shoe wear. Finally, increasing deformity begins to displace the second toe upward and may create a situation where the second toe is constantly rubbing on the shoe.
Diagnosis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor. This will usually include a discussion about shoe wear and the importance of shoes in the development and treatment of the condition. X-rays will probably be suggested. This allows your doctor to measure several important angles made by the bones of the feet to help determine the appropriate treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Patients who suffer from bunions are usually referred to a surgeon. Unfortunately, surgery often makes the problem worse. Surgeons will use x-ray technology as a diagnostic tool, which does not always properly diagnose the pain source. Another problem with this approach is that it does not do anything to strengthen the weakened ligament in the foot and, thus, does not alleviate the chronic pain that people with this condition experience. Another standard practice of modern medicine is to use steroids or to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. However, in the long run, these treatments do more damage than good. Cortisone shots and anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to produce short-term pain benefit, but both result in long-term loss of function and even more chronic pain by actually inhibiting the healing process of soft tissues and accelerating cartilage degeneration. Plus, long-term use of these drugs can lead to other sources of chronic pain, allergies and leaky gut syndrome.
Sometimes a screw is placed in the foot to hold a bone in a corrected position, other times a pin, wire or plate is chosen. There are even absorbable pins and screws, which are used for some patients. In British Columbia, pins seem to be used most frequently, as they're easier to insert and less expensive. They are typically--but not always--removed at some point in the healing process. But as a general rule, Dr. Schumacher prefers to use screws whenever possible, as they offer some advantages over pins. First, using screws allows you to close over the wound completely, without leaving a pin sticking out of the foot. That allows for a lower infection rate, it allows you to get your foot wet more quickly following the surgery, and it usually allows for a quicker return to normal shoes. Second, they're more stable than pins and wires. Stability allows for faster, more uneventful, bone healing. Third, they usually don't need to be removed down the road, so there's one less procedure involved.
Because bunions develop slowly, taking care of your feet during childhood and early adulthood can pay off later in life. Keep track of the shape of your feet as they develop over time, especially if foot problems run in your family. Exercising your feet can strengthen them. Learn to pick up small objects, like a pencil or pebble, with your toes. Wear shoes that fit properly and don't cramp or pinch your toes. Women should avoid shoes with very high heels or pointed toes.