A bunion, or Hallux Abducto Valgus, is an enlargement and mis-alignment of the big toe joint of the foot. This often causes irritation with swelling, redness and pain at the big toe joint. Some people never notice they have a bunion till it starts to hurt, and then they come into the office saying this just occurred overnight. Bunions do not appear overnight, they are a progressive deformity which develops over time.
As the big toe moves laterally, or towards the lesser toes, and the 1st metatarsal bone, the long bone behind the big toe moves inward, this creates the bump that people see. This area becomes aggravated by pressure and can then become inflamed, swollen and very painful. Walking can be hampered and wearing shoes can be extremely painful.
The tendency to develop bunions can be hereditary. This is usually due to muscle imbalance around the big toe joint, caused by faulty foot mechanics and function. This puts an abnormal force on the muscles and tendons around the big toe joint and over time causes the pulling of the toe towards the little toes, creating the bunion.
If diagnosed early, padding, shoe therapy and functional orthotics may help alleviate the discomfort associated with the bunion. Left untreated, the bunion can cause arthritis to develop in the joint with joint destruction. Moving the toe can become very painful and difficult. The patient will not be able to perform many of life's daily activities due to pain. If conservative care does not afford the person enough relief because the bunion has become large, then surgery can be done to re-align the toe joint and restore better function. This can put the patient back on their feet and help them achieve a more active lifestyle.