A Bunion is one of the most common foot ailments which usually occur near the joint at the base of the big toe. It is actually a bony protrusion which consists of excess or misaligned bone in the joint. Although they may develop on the fifth or little toe, bunions usually occur at the base of the big toe. In addition to causing pain, a bunion changes the shape of your foot, making it harder to find shoes that fit. The good news however, is that you don?t have to hobble for the rest of your life, bunions can be treated.
Various factors, including a tight gastrocnemius (or calf) muscle and instability of the arch, contribute to formation of bunions. The tight calf muscle is often hereditary and can cause a bunion because it forces more loading, or pressure, on the forefoot. Ultimately, this can contribute to instability in the bones, ligaments and tendons that form the arch. When it?s unstable, the arch starts collapsing and the metatarsal can shift. Arch instability can also be brought on by obesity, again, due to chronic overloading of the foot. But, by far, the most common contributing factor is childbirth. Bunions are most common in women who have had children. This happens because the hormones that affect their pelvis during childbirth also affect their feet. The hormone is called relaxin, and it allows bones to move and spread. Over time, it can cause the structure of a woman?s feet to gradually stretch and the metatarsal to shift.
The main problem is usually the pressure of the shoe over the bony prominence, which causes discomfort or pain. Sometimes the skin over the lump becomes red, blistered or infected. The foot may become so broad that it is difficult to get wide enough shoes. The big toe sometimes tilts over so much that it rubs on the second toe, or pushes it up out of place so it presses on the shoe. Also, the big toe does not work as well with a bunion, and the other toes have to take more of the weight of the body as you walk. This can cause pain under the ball of the foot ("metatarsalgia"). Sometimes arthritis develops in the deformed joint, causing pain in the joint.
Looking at the problem area on the foot is the best way to discover a bunion. If it has the shape characteristic of a bunion, this is the first hint of a problem. The doctor may also look at the shape of your leg, ankle, and foot while you are standing, and check the range of motion of your toe and joints by asking you to move your toes in different directions A closer examination with weight-bearing X-rays helps your doctor examine the actual bone structure at the joint and see how severe the problem is. A doctor may ask about the types of shoes you wear, sports or activities (e.g., ballet) you participate in, and whether or not you have had a recent injury. This information will help determine your treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Before treatment of a painful bunion can begin, medical evaluation is needed. There are a number of other causes of pain in the big toe such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, infection and gout. Circulatory problems not only cause pain, but may also cause serious complications if surgery is attempted. Diabetes and cigarette smoking may diminish healing potential and increase the risk of infection.
In some very mild cases of bunion formation, surgery may only be required to remove the bump that makes up the bunion. This operation, called a bunionectomy, is performed through a small incision on the side of the foot immediately over the area of the bunion. Once the skin is opened the bump is removed using a special surgical saw or chisel. The bone is smoothed of all rough edges and the skin incision is closed with small stitches. It is more likely that realignment of the big toe will also be necessary. The major decision that must be made is whether or not the metatarsal bone will need to be cut and realigned as well. The angle made between the first metatarsal and the second metatarsal is used to make this decision. The normal angle is around nine or ten degrees. If the angle is 13 degrees or more, the metatarsal will probably need to be cut and realigned.