Bunions are probably the most common deformity seen in the adult foot. The term ?bunion? is actually Latin for turnip. The scientific phrase used to describe a bunion is hallux valgus. Hallux is Latin for great toe, while valgus means deviation towards the outer side of the body. Bunions come in all shapes and sizes. This causes significant variation in symptoms and also in the extent of the surgery required to correct a bunion. Most patients who have symptomatic bunions complain of pain on the medial, or inner aspect of the big toe. However, bunions may also cause pain underneath the big toe, or even under the second toe.
Although bunions tend to run in families, it is the foot type that is passed down-not the bunion. Parents who suffer from poor foot mechanics can pass their problematic foot type on to their children, who in turn are prone to developing bunions. The abnormal functioning caused by this faulty foot development can lead to pressure being exerted on and within the foot, often resulting in bone and joint deformities such as bunions and hammertoes.
The symptoms of bunions include irritated skin around the bunion, pain when walking, joint redness and pain, and possible shift of the big toe toward the other toes. Blisters may form more easily around the site of the bunion as well. Having bunions can also make it more difficult to find shoes that fit properly; bunions may force a person to have to buy a larger size shoe to accommodate the width the bunion creates. When bunion deformity becomes severe enough, the foot can hurt in different places even without the constriction of shoes because it then becomes a mechanical function problem of the forefoot.
Clinical findings are usually specific. Acute circumferential intense pain, warmth, swelling, and redness suggest gouty arthritis (see Gout) or infectious arthritis (see Acute Infectious Arthritis), sometimes mandating examination of synovial fluid. If multiple joints are affected, gout or another systemic rheumatic disease should be considered. If clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritic synovitis is equivocal, x-rays are taken. Suggestive findings include joint space narrowing and bony spurs extending from the metatarsal head or sometimes from the base of the proximal phalanx. Periarticular erosions (Martel sign) seen on imaging studies suggest gout.
Non Surgical Treatment
A hinged flexible bunion splint, can relieve pain by providing corrective arch support and releasing tension away from the inflamed joint. Change shoes! Avoid flip flops, high-heels and shoes with pointed, narrow toe-boxes. Medicine will not prevent or cure bunions. However, the use of over the counter anti- inflammatory medications can help. Bunion splints, pads and arch supports can help redistribute weight and move pressure away from the big toe.
There are many different procedures that have been described to correct bunions. The type of operation your foot surgeon recommends to correct your bunion should be dictated by the severity of your bunion deformity and the surgeon?s preference. There are well over 100 different bunion correction procedures described in the orthopaedic literature. However, the broad categories of bunion correction procedures are listed below. Removal of the medial eminence. Distal metatarsal osteotomy (chevron) with great toe soft-tissue tightening (medial capsular tightening and distal soft-tissue repair). Proximal metatarsal osteotomy Ludloff, Cresentic, SCARF, medial opening wedge) with with great toe soft-tissue tightening (medial capsular tightening and distal soft-tissue repair). Lapidus hallux valgus correction (first tarsometatarsal joint fusion) with distal soft tissue procedure. Great Toe Fusion (1st MTP joint arthrodesis). Akin osteotomy (Realignment bone cut at the base of the big toe). Removal of the medial eminence with suture stabilization of the first and second metatarsals. Keller joint arthroplasty (removal of the proximal aspect of the proximal phalanx).
If the diagnosis is made early on, such as in preadolescence, bunion development can be slowed and in some cases arrested with the proper supportive shoe gear and custom functional shoe inserts (orthotics). Avoidance of certain athletic activities with improper shoe fit and toe pressure can prevent the symptoms that occur with bunions.