The term bunion refers to an enlargement and shifting of the first metatarsal joint. This enlargement may be swollen tissue along with bony growth and is caused by the shifting of the bones at the "big toe joint". The area around the base of the big toe may become inflamed, red, and painful causing pain and difficulty in wearing shoes.
Genetic factors are important in the formation of bunions – people who get bunions are usually genetically predisposed to this bone displacement. Another common cause for bunions is wearing high heeled shoes or shoes that are improperly sized. The weight of the body in these shoes pushes the toes into an unnatural position causing bone and joint displacement.
A podiatrist who specializes in foot structure and bio-mechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates a shifting of the angles between the 1st and 2nd metatarsals and a shift of the big toe , then this may be called hallux valgus or commonly referred to as a bunion.
Wearing wider shoes can remove the pressure on the bunion and reduce pain. High heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time as this type of shoe generally pushes the big toe outward toward the smaller toes. Treatment may include oral anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin.
Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the painful joint. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem but may help lessen some pressure on the front of the foot. They are custom made for your foot.
For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe and joint. A podiatric surgeon can do this by taking out a section of bone, repositioning and realigning it. It may take up to 6 to 8weeks for full recovery.