A bunion is an enlargement at the base of the big toe caused by a misalignment of the joint
Hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus (HAV) is the name used for the deviated position of the big toe and a bunion refers to the enlargement of the joint – most of the time the two go together and can just be referred to as ‘bunions’.
Bunions are really only a symptom of faulty foot mechanics and are usually caused by the foot.
We inherit and inappropriate footwear use. As the big toe bends towards the others this lump becomes larger and the bunion can become painful – arthritis and stiffness can eventually develop.
Bunions can follow foot injuries and trauma and people with flat feet or pronated feet appear to have a higher incidence of bunions. Some activities, such as ballet dancing, put added pressure on the joint and may increase the chance of bunions developing. As the big toe begins to deviate the bunion can become painful – there may be redness, some swelling, or pain at or near the joint.
Corns and calluses can develop on the bunion, the big toe and the second toe due to the alterations in pressure from the footwear. The change in pressure on the toe may predispose to an ingrown nail.
Treatment options for bunions vary with the type and severity of each bunion and will also depend on what is causing the symptoms. Bunions are almost always progressive and tend to get larger and more painful with time – how fast this happens may be a function of the fit of the footwear.
When to see a Podiatrist
You cannot get rid of a bunion without surgery, however there are a number of things that can be done to alleviate the symptoms and your Podiatrist will be able to advise on the most appropriate treatment for you. This may include:
- Applying padding to reduce pressure
- Improving the range of motion
- Treating corns and calluses
- Wearing appropriate and correctly fitting footwear
- Adjusting shoes to relieve pressure
- Supplying orthotics to help with the instability about the joint
- Exercises to maintain the mobility of the joint
Podiatrists have an important role to play in preventing and managing foot problems. Prompt action is important. Problems which are left without assessment or treatment may result in major health risks.