The common bunion is a localized area of enlargement of the inner portion of the joint at the base of the big toe. The enlargement actually represents additional bone formation, often in combination with a misalignment of the big toe. The misalignment causes the big toe to move outward (medically termed hallux valgus deformity). The normal position of the big toe (straight forward) becomes outward directed toward the smaller toes. The enlarged joint at the base of the big toe (the first metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTP joint) can become inflamed with redness, tenderness, and pain. A small fluid-filled sac (bursa) adjacent to the joint can also become inflamed (bursitis), leading to additional swelling, redness, and pain. A less common bunion is located at the joint at the base of the smallest (fifth) toe. This bunion is sometimes referred to as a tailor's bunion. Causes
Bunions are a common problem that can cause foot pain and difficulty wearing shoes. Bunions occur in about 30% of the population of most Western countries. They are seen most commonly in women and become more common as people get older. Patients with bunions generally have one of two problems that can cause pain. As the big toe becomes more and more angled (pointing toward the other toes), the base of the toe becomes more and more prominent, forming the bunion. The bunion forms in part because of the new angle of the toe, and in part due to inflammation over the bunion surface. As the inflammation worsens, people can experience pain with shoe wear and walking. The big toe may eventually come to lie over, or more commonly under, the second toe. This may cause further irritation while wearing shoes and more pain. The second toe of patients who have bunions commonly forms a hammer toe. Symptoms
The most common symptoms associated with this condition are pain on the side of the foot just behind the great toe. A red painful bump is usually present. Pain is usually brought on with walking or sports. Shoes don't cause bunions but will typically aggravate them. Stiff leather shoes or shoes with a tapered toe box are the prime offenders. This is why bunion pain is most common in women whose shoes have a pointed toe box. The bunion site will often be slightly swollen and red from the constant rubbing and irritation of a shoe. Occasionally, corns can develop between the 1st and 2nd toe from the pressure the toes rubbing against each other. Diagnosis
The doctor considers a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position. Non Surgical Treatment
Some bunions can be treated without surgery. If you have a bunion, wear shoes that are roomy enough so that they won?t put pressure on it. You can choose to have your shoes stretched out professionally or try cushioning the painful area with protective pads. Orthotics have been shown to help prevent progression of bunions. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Applying an ice pack several times a day can also help reduce inflammation and pain. If your bunion progresses to a point where you have difficulty walking or experience pain even with accommodative shoes, surgery may be necessary. Surgical Treatment
Complications of bunion surgery are not common, but include infection of soft tissue and/or bone, slow healing of skin or bone, irritation from fixation pins or screws, nerve entrapment, reaction to the foreign material (suture material, pins or screws), excessive swelling, excessive scarring, excessive stiffness (some stiffness is unavoidable), over-correction (hallux varus) and recurrence of the deformity. Rarely, some complications may require a second surgery to correct the problem. While these complications are rare, they should be weighed against the difficulty that you are experiencing to determine whether surgery is an acceptable risk for your condition. This is an important part of the process. Prevention
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.