Bunions (Hallux Valgus)
Introduction to Bunions (Hallux Valgus)
A bunion (hallux valgus) is a joint deformity at the base of the big toe.
What are Bunions (Hallux Valgus)?
A bunion (hallux valgus) is a joint deformity at the base of the big toe. It is characterized by the angled movement of the big toe towards the second toe. Symptoms can get worse if left untreated. Bunions are more commonly found in women, possibly due to the style of footwear.
What causes Bunions?
The cause is not clear in many cases. There may be some genetic link, where weakness of this particular joint is inherited, increasing an individual’s risk towards bunions. It can also be associated to joint problems, like rheumatoid arthritis, due to inflammatory response, attacking the joint. Wearing tight or badly fitting shoes can also lead to bunions due to the straining pressure applied to the side of the big toe, forcing it inwards towards the other toes.
What are the symptoms of Bunions?
The symptoms include irritated skin around the bunion, discomfort when walking, redness of joint and possible shift of the big toe toward the other toes. You may note thickened skin next to the affected joint. There may be blisters around the bunion site as well. If the deformity is severe, the big toe can push your second toe up out of place causing further deformity.
How are Bunions treated?
Good footwear can help to ease symptoms, although it does not cure the deformity. Seek advice from a podiatrist (a person qualified to diagnose and treat food disorders). Avoid wearing high heels or tight shoes. Instead, wear shoes that are fitting and with laces, to adjust the width accordingly. When choosing a pair of shoes, make sure they are of the correct size and fit nicely where you can move your toes freely.
Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to relieve pain. Antibiotics may be needed in cases where the deformity is infected. If you toe joint is swollen, applying an ice pack, wrapped in a cloth, can reduce the pain.
Orthotics, placed inside your shoes, can also be used to help realign the bones of your foot. They can be found over the counter from pharmacies. You should, however, find an orthotic that fits properly and seek advice from a podiatrist to recommend the best ones.
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to correct the deformity and the persistent pain, done under a local or general anaesthetic. This involves removing the enlarged first metatarsal and realigning the bone. After a bunion surgery, your foot and ankle may be swollen for months and you may need crutches to help support your movement.