A bunion is an enlargement of ?the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint?, this is the big toe?s base joint that forms when the bone or tissue moves out of place. This forces the toe to bend toward the others, causing an often painful lump of bone on the foot. The MTP joint, which carries lots of weight, is stiff and sore, making even the wearing of shoes difficult or impossible. It also causes swelling of the feet to occur. Hammer toes are also associated with the formation of bunions.
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.
Your bunion may not cause any symptoms. Or you may have pain in your big toe, red or irritated skin over the bunion, and swelling at the base of the big toe. The big toe may point toward the other toes and cause problems in other toes, such as hammer toe . A bunionette can cause similar symptoms at the base of the little toe.
The doctor considers a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions may be treated with proper shoes and corrective inserts such as toe spacers, bunion or toe separators, as well as bunion cushions and splints. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed to remove the bony enlargement of the first metatarsal bone, realigning the bone, or straightening the big toe.
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.