A bunion is a bony enlargement of the joint and surrounding soft tissues at the base of the big toe. The enlargement makes the big toe joint stick out further on the side, and forces the big toe to curve in closer to the other toes. For some people, bunions cause little or no pain. In Canada, women are 10 times more likely than men to have bunions. Managing the condition so that it doesn't get worse is a matter of wearing appropriate footwear, cushioning and supporting the area, and taking pain relievers as required. People with more severe bunions may need more specific treatment, such as surgery.
Bunions most commonly affect women. Some studies report that bunions occur nearly 10 times more frequently in women. It has been suggested that tight-fitting shoes, especially high-heel and narrow-toed shoes, might increase the risk for bunion formation. Bunions are reported to be more prevalent in people who wear shoes than in barefoot people. While the precise causes are not known, there also seems to be inherited (genetic) factors that predispose to the development of bunions, especially when they occur in younger individuals. Other risk factors for the development of bunions include abnormal formation of the bones of the foot at birth (congenital), nerve conditions that affect the foot, rheumatoid arthritis, and injury to the foot. Bunions are common in ballet dancers.
Symptoms include redness, swelling and pain which may be present along the inside margin of the foot. The patients feet may become too wide to fit into their normal size shoes and moderate to severe discomfort may occur when the patient is wearing tight shoes. A "hammer toe" may occur at the 2nd toe. This is when the toe contracts and presses on the shoe. Subsequently, this may cause a corn on top of the 2nd toe.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
The choice of treatment for a bunion lies between non-operative (conservative) and operative treatment. Conservative treatment for a bunion means either wearing wider fitting shoes or shoes with softer leather or using some form of a spacer between the big toe and 2nd toe (or alternatively some form of splint to keep the great toe away from the 2nd toe). The spacers or splintage may apparently straighten the bunion but they make no difference to the width of the foot, and the splaying of the 1st and 2nd metatarsals which occur with a bunion deformity. Therefore this type of treatment will not improve the main pain in a bunion which occurs due to the width of the forefoot. An arch type support orthotic may be useful if a bunion is associated with a flatter foot. If you have a bunion this is however just one other thing to get into a shoe with an already wide foot.
Larger bunions are commonly treated with the Lapidus Bunionectomy, which involves realigned the displaced bone at its bottom, through a bone mending/fusion procedure. It is with this technique where the the walking advances have been made int he past decade. The Lapidus Bunionectomy has become a popular surgical method since surgeons have become more comfortable with mobilizing their patients post-operatively. Though not all surgeons who perform this procedure have adopted this postoperative protocol.
A lot of bunion deformities are hereditary so there isn't much you can do to fully prevent them. Early detection and treatment will go a long way in preventing the growth of the bunion and foot pain. Often times, a good custom orthotic can be very effective in slowing the progression of a bunion, but a podiatrist provides that. Waiting with bunions will worsen the condition and could lead to further complications such as hammertoes or contracted toes. Besides causing deformity, these secondary conditions can eventually cause issues with walking and affect your knees, hip, lower back. There are no lotions over the counter that would be able to actually treat the problem. There are some bunion shields that you can place on the bump to ease symptoms and pressure from shoes. However because this condition is an actual bone deformity, the over the counter option solutions are more like a Band-aid approach.