Jan 14, 2011
Bunions: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Simon Moyes explains what bunions are, what causes bunions, possible symptoms and how they can be treated.
Bunions, medically referred to as hallux valgus, are a common problem which affect our feet.
Most people who develop bunions will experience a bony protuberance at the base of the big toe. However, a bunion is far more complicated than a simple bump on the foot.
Bunions can occur due to the shape and direction of our feet. Sometimes the big toe can become angled towards the smaller toes, forcing the top of the first metatarsal bone to protrude from the side of the foot at the base of the toe.
If this happens, a painful swollen bunion will form, causing instability and make walking difficult. This can be heightened through irritation of the soft tissues surrounding this part of the foot. Badly fitting shoes heighten pain and increase swelling.
Although anyone can develop bunions at any time, they affect far more women than men. The causes are partly genetic and partly due to footwear: particularly tight fitting shoes or high heeled shoes.
To properly diagnose whether a patient has a bunion, a full physical examination will be carried out by the surgeon.
Throughout this process, a range of motion exercises of the big toe will be carried out. An x-ray will also be taken to highlight the full extent of the deformity and help the surgeon decide on the appropriate course of treatment.
During surgery, the bony lump on the foot will be removed. The surgeon will correct the abnormality of the first metatarsal bone and tighten loose ligaments to correct the leaning of the big toe. In severe cases, further surgery may be carried out at the base of the big toe.
After surgery, patients will need to wear a compressive dressing but will be able to walk immediately with lightweight over-shoes. These should be worn for two weeks, after which patients can switch over to loose sandals or trainers, getting back to normal shoes after six weeks.
Simon Moyes is an internationally renowned orthopaedic surgeon and leader in the field of arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery. His Capital Orthopaedics team works from The Cromwell Hospital in London, with its state-of-the-art diagnostic and surgical equipment, and top sports medicine professionals.