A bunion (also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus) is often described as a bump on the side of the big toe. But a bunion is more than that. The visible bump actually reflects changes in the bony framework of the front part of the foot. The big toe leans toward the second toe, rather than pointing straight ahead. This throws the bones out of alignment – producing the bunion’s “bump.” Bunions are a progressive disorder. They begin with a leaning of the big toe, gradually changing the angle of the bones over the years and slowly producing the characteristic bump, which becomes increasingly prominent. Symptoms usually appear at later stages, although some people never have symptoms.
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause bunions, it sometimes makes the deformity get progressively worse. Symptoms may therefore appear sooner.
Symptoms, which occur at the site of the bunion, may include: Pain or soreness, Inflammation and redness, a burning sensation, possible numbness Symptoms occur most often when wearing shoes that crowd the toes, such as shoes with a tight toe box or high heels. This may explain why women are more likely to have symptoms than men. In addition, spending long periods of time on your feet can aggravate the symptoms of bunions.
Non-surgical treatments for bunions may include: Wearing shoes that fit and that have adequate toe room. Stretching shoes professionally to make them larger. Putting bunion pads over the bunion to cushion the pain. Avoiding activities that cause pain, such as being on your feet for long periods of time. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers when necessary, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen. Using ice to provide relief from inflammation and pain. Using custom-made orthotic devices.
Surgery might be recommended if non-surgical treatments fail to provide relief, and you are having trouble walking or are in extreme pain. Surgery can be used to return the big toe to its correct anatomical position. During surgery, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves are put back into correct order, and the bump is removed. Many bunion correction procedures can be done on a same-day basis. The type of procedure will depend on your physical health, the extent of the foot deformity, your age, and your activity level. The recovery time will depend on which procedure or procedures are performed. Surgery may be recommended to correct a tailor’s bunion, but is unlikely to be recommended for an adolescent bunion.
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