A bunion (hallux valgus) is a deformity of the base joint of the big toe. The cause is not clear in many cases. The deformity may cause the foot to rub on shoes, which may cause inflammation and pain. Good footwear is often all that is needed to ease symptoms. An operation to correct the deformity is an option if good footwear does not ease symptoms. Causes
The main cause of bunions is excessive pressure being placed on the front of the foot, and is usually the result of wearing high-heeled shoes with pointed toes. A study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society found that 88 percent of women in the United States wear shoes that are too small and that 55 percent of them have bunions. Overall, bunions are nine times more common in women than men. In some cases, bunions are hereditary; they also may be caused by arthritis or polio. Symptoms
Symptoms include pain in and around the ball of the big toe, usually from the bone rubbing too much against the shoe. You may be unable to wear certain types of shoes due to the shape of the forefoot. The big toe appears to be bent inwards towards and in come cases over the inside toe. Diagnosis
Orthopaedic surgeons diagnose bunions on the basis of physical examination and weight bearing x-rays. Two angles are assessed, the intermetatarsal angle, that is between the first and second metatarsals (the bones that lead up to the base of the toes). If this angle exceeds 9? (the angle found in the healthy foot) it is abnormal and referred to as metatarsus primus varus. the hallux valgus angle, that is, the angle of the big toe as it drifts toward the small toe. An angle that exceeds 15? is considered to be a sign of pathology. Non Surgical Treatment
Follow the advice given by a Podiatrist. Use felt pads to help keep pressure off the painful area of the bunions. Wear shoes that are wide and deep to accomodate the bunions. Fitting of footwear is very important. Avoid the use of high heel shoes. Use exercises to keep the joint mobile. Night splints may help with the bunion symptoms. The aim of these are to hold the toe in a more correct position. Padding or foam between the big toe and the second toe is sometimes recommended, it should, generally, not be recommended as the big toe is usually so strong it just further 'squeezes' the lesser toes and can lead to problems between these toes. The padding between the two toes will not straighten the big toe. However, sometimes the padding may be needed to help with symptoms that originate inside the joint if the bunion is painful. Surgical Treatment
There are a range of different surgeries that can be performed with the goal of realigning the joint and relieving pain ranging from shaving off part of the bone to cutting and realigning the bone with pins and screws. Depending on the surgery full recovery can take months and require you to stay off the foot. One new type of surgery, called a tightrope, involves attaching a wire to the bone to try and pull it back into alignment, but be wary of this procedure because there have not been any long-term outcome studies yet.