Bunions – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Tips

A bunion ( hallux valgus ) is a sometimes painful structural deformity of the bones and the joint between the foot and big toe. The enlargement actually represents additional bone formation, often in combination with a misalignment of the big toe. The normal position of the big toe (straight forward) becomes outward-directed toward the smaller toes. The enlarged joint at the base of the big toe (the first metatarsophalangeal joint) can become inflamed with redness, tenderness, and pain . A small fluid-filled sac ( bursa ) adjacent to the joint can also become inflamed ( bursitis ) leading to additional swelling, redness, and pain. Bunions can occur for a number of reasons, but a common cause is wearing shoes that fit too tightly. They can also develop as a result of inherited structural defect, injury, stress on your foot or another medical condition. Often, treatment involves conservative steps that may include changing your shoes, padding your bunion and wearing shoe inserts. Severe cases of bunions may require surgery to relieve the pain. Some of the symptoms of bunions include inflammation, swelling, and soreness on the side surface of the big toe. The discomfort commonly causes a patient to walk improperly. Another type of bunion which some individuals experience is called a Tailor’s Bunion, also known as a Bunionette. This forms on the outside of the foot towards the joint at the little toe. It is a smaller bump that forms due to the little toe moving inwards, towards the big toe.

A bunion is one problem that can develop due to hallux valgus, a foot deformity. The term “hallux valgus” is Latin and means a turning outward (valgus) of the big toe (hallux). Bunions result from inflammation and thickening of the bursa (fluid-filled sac in the connective tissue) and cause abnormal bone formation and misalignment of the toe. Bunions can be related to inflammation or to degenerative disease (e.g., osteoarthritis). They cause redness, tenderness, and pain, and alter the normal position of the first toe. “Hallux abductovalgus” (HAV) is a term that refers to the hallux going away (abducting) from the midline of the body and twisting so the inside edge touches the ground and the outside edge turns upward. Essentially, this term describes the deviation of the toe toward the outside of the foot. Bunions worsen over time and cause discomfort, difficulty walking, and skin problems such as corns and lesions.

Causes of Bunions

1. Family history of bunions.

2. In some cases, bunions can occur due to trauma or injury to the feet.

3. Rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.

4. Genetic and neuromuscular diseases which can result in a muscular imbalance such as Down’s syndrome.

5. If one leg is longer then the other, the longer leg is more inclined to develop a bunion.

6. The most important causative factor is poor fitting footwear. This accounts for an higher incidence among women then men.

Symptoms of Bunions

1. A bulging bump on the outside of the base of your big toe.

2. Pain or soreness.

3. Thickening of the skin at the base of your big toe.

4. Restricted movement of your big toe.

5. Persistent or intermittent pain.

6. A burning sensation

Treatment of Bunions

1. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may help to relieve pain.

2. Injection therapy. Although rarely used in bunion treatment, injections of corticosteroids may be useful in treating the inflamed bursa (fluid-filled sac located in a joint) sometimes seen with bunions.

3. Applying an ice pack several times a day helps reduce inflammation and pain.

4. Avoid activity that causes bunion pain, including standing for long periods of time.

5. Avoid high heeled shoes.

6. Apply a commercial bunion pad, making sure it is not too rigid or medicated.

7. A Bunion Shield can reduce the pain over the bunion.

8. Apply a moisturizer such as flexitol heel balm twice daily to hard skin or corns and use a pumice stone to reduce the thickness of the hard skin.