Bunions: What are the Common Symptoms?

The painful, unnatural, and bony hump that forms at the big toe’s base is known as hallux valgus or bunion.

Bunions develop gradually.

Pressure on the joint of the big toe can sometimes cause the big toe to lean toward the second toe.

Eventually, it can change the normal structure of the bone and it develops into a bunion.

While the condition can affect just about anyone, bunion has been observed to be more prevalent in women.

Depending on the condition’s severity, treatment options can range from conservative alternatives to bunions surgery.

Progression

Bunions often start out small but can get worse especially if the person continues to wear narrow and tight shoes.

Severe cases of the condition can result to significant alteration of the foot’s appearance.

Constant pressure from the big toe can put the second toe out of alignment.

It can also cause it to come in contact with the third toe.

When the toes constantly rub against each other, calluses can develop, causing discomfort and walking difficulty.

Causes

Some of the likely causes of bunions include:

  • Ill-fitting footwear – wearing of shoes that don’t fit properly (too tight or too narrow) can force the toes into a position that’s unnatural.
  • Inflammatory conditions – rheumatoid arthritis and neuromuscular conditions like polio can also predispose an individual to bunions.
  • Heredity – some individuals are more prone to developing bunions due to their feet’s inherited structure and shape.

Symptoms

Aside from the noticeable bump on the inside of the foot, other typical symptoms of the condition include:

  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Hardened skin
  • Corn or callus (on the bump)
  • Stiffness

Diagnosis

To diagnose the condition, physical examination and X-rays will be necessary.

Physical examination

Patient will be asked about their general health, medical history, and the symptoms they have experienced.

A thorough examination of the foot will also be conducted.

While the appearance of the feet and the symptoms can already help doctors diagnose the condition, in some cases, an X-ray will be ordered.

X-ray

Since an X-ray can provide an image of the bone, it allows doctors to examine the toe’s alignment and check for any damage to the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint.

The X-ray can also help doctors gauge the severity of the bunion and identify ways on how best to correct the condition.

Treatment Options

Nonsurgical alternatives

In majority of the cases, bunions are treated using noninvasive means.

However, while nonsurgical alternatives can help alleviate the pain and keep the condition from worsening, it cannot “reverse” it.

Noninvasive treatment options include:

  • Padding – to help cushion the painful area, consider using protective “bunion-shield” pads.
  • Orthotics and other devices – to help minimize the pressure on the bunion, wearing custom made or over-the-counter shoe inserts might be recommended. In some instances, wearing a splint at night may also be advised to help ease the pain.
  • Icing – applying ice several times daily (20 minutes each time) has been known to help significantly reduce the swelling.
  • Medications – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like naproxen and ibuprofen are prescribed to help minimize pain and swelling.

Surgery

Surgery for bunions might be recommended if the condition does not respond to nonsurgical treatments and the patient experiences pain and walking difficulty.

Essentially, bunions surgery will realign the tendons, ligaments, nerves, and bones so correct position of the big toe is restored.

There are diverse surgical procedures available to treat the condition.

Some of the most common include:

  • Osteotomy – the doctor will make small cuts in the bones in order to realign the joint.
  • Arthrodesis – this procedure will entail removing the arthritic joint surfaces. Wires, screws, and plates will then be inserted to hold the surfaces together until the bone completely heals.
  • Resection Arthroplasty – the procedure will involve removing the portion of the joint that is damaged. This type of surgery is often only recommended for elderly patients and those who have had unsuccessful bunion operations.

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