Hallux abductovalgus (HAV) or bunion, is a commonly seen deformity of the first metatarsophalangeal joint (MPJ) in which the hallux is abducted and everted, frequently overriding the second toe. Although the terms HAV and bunion are often used synonymously (as is done in this paper), it should be noted that a bunion actually refers to the callus and inflamed adventitious bursa overlying the HAV deformity. Even though bunions have been described in the medical literature for several hundred years (the word bunion is believed to be derived from the Latin, bunio, meaning turnip), there continues to be much controversy concerning its etiology. This is most likely because the development of HAV is multifactorial, stemming from a variety of structural and functional aberrancies.
Improper footwear. Podiatric physicians have long believed that narrow, poor-fitting shoes with a tight toe box tend to compress the end of the foot, leading to abnormal motion of the foot and pressure over the MTP joint. High-heeled shoes tend to add even more pressure to the toes, as the foot slides downward. Over time, continued pressure will squeeze the toes together, encouraging the deformity. Occupational hazards. Individuals whose jobs place undue stress on their feet are among those who complain of bunions. Ballet dancers, in particular, put great demands on their toes, and thus are often subject to bunions, however, they are not alone. Many professionals whose jobs require a great deal of standing or walking (teachers, police officers, doctors and nurses, etc.) and/or who are required to wear a particular type of shoe or boot as part of a uniform, also are at risk. Athletes such as runners or walkers, who utilize the wrong footwear, may also develop bunions.
With an advanced bunion, the big toe joint can be significantly deformed. The big toe can crowd the other toes and may lie over or under the second toe. The larger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Wearing any type of shoe can be painful. Symptoms of bunions tend to increase over time as the condition worsens. Typical symptoms include deformity of the big toe joint. Growth of a bony lump (exostosis) at the side of the big toe joint. Pain, redness and tissue swelling (bursitis) over the big toe joint, with thickening of overlying skin. Pain when walking (particularly during the "push off" phase). Overlapping of the big toe above or below the second toe in severe cases.
Before examining your foot, the doctor will ask you about the types of shoes you wear and how often you wear them. He or she also will ask if anyone else in your family has had bunions or if you have had any previous injury to the foot. In most cases, your doctor can diagnose a bunion just by examining your foot. During this exam, you will be asked to move your big toe up and down to see if you can move it as much as you should be able to. The doctor also will look for signs of redness and swelling and ask if the area is painful. Your doctor may want to order X-rays of the foot to check for other causes of pain, to determine whether there is significant arthritis and to see if the bones are aligned properly.
Non Surgical Treatment
If you suspect a bunion, it is essential that you confirm your suspicions by consulting with a podiatric physician. Don?t try to treat the problem yourself, even by using conservative measures. Many conditions have similar symptoms, and only a professional can tell the difference. Once a diagnosis is obtained, it is essential to begin treatment immediately. Your podiatric physician will advise you on the most effective means. If caught early enough, good foot care, shoes that fit properly, and/or orthoses may eliminate the need for any further intervention. Certain over-the-counter remedies, such as felt or foam pads, applied to specific areas of the foot to relieve pressure and friction, will protect the bunion. Elevating the foot and icing the area for 20 minutes an hour may help to relieve pain.
Depending on the size of the enlargement, misalignment of the toe, and pain experienced, conservative treatments may not be adequate to prevent progressive damage from bunions. In these cases, bunion surgery, known as a bunionectomy, may be advised to remove the bunion and realign the toe.
To minimize the chance of developing bunions, never force your feet into shoes that don?t fit. Choose a shoe that conforms to the shape of your foot. Opt for shoes with wider insteps, broad toes, and soft soles. Shoes that are short, tight, or sharply pointed should be avoided.