A bunion, also known by its medical name hallux abductovalgus, is foot condition in which your big toe points toward your second toe, causing a bump or prominence to develop on the inside edge of your big toe and first metatarsal bone. Your first metatarsal bone is the long bone located directly behind your big toe, in your mid-foot. A bunion will cause your forefoot to appear wider because the base of your big toe now points away from your foot instead of pointing straight ahead.
Women traditionally have a higher rate of bunions, which is to be expected, since it is they who have traditionally worn shoes with high heels, a narrow toe box, or whatever fashion dictates from year to year. However, men can suffer from bunions as well, as can anyone for whom the right (or wrong) conditions exist, poor foot mechanics, improper footwear, occupational hazards, health and genetic predisposition. Finally, bunions have long been a condition associated with the elderly, and although they often appear in conjunction with inflammatory joint diseases such as arthritis (which is often associated with age), they can strike at any point in life, including adolescence.
It is unusual to have much bunion or hallux valgus pain when out of shoe wear or at rest. There are exceptions to this and in particular if symptoms have been ignored during the day and the bunion has become very painful during the day then some symptoms may be present at night. The pain from the region of the great toe at rest or at night is however more often a symptom of an arthritic big toe (hallux rigidus) rather than a straightforward bunion. To confuse matters these two conditions can sometimes coexist. Bunion or hallux valgus pain is most often present when walking in enclosed shoes. There may be little bunion pain in sandals or barefoot. It is unusual to have much bunion pain when not putting weight on the foot or at night. If there is bunion pain at rest or at night then there may also be arthritic change within the toe.
Clinical findings are usually specific. Acute circumferential intense pain, warmth, swelling, and redness suggest gouty arthritis (see Gout) or infectious arthritis (see Acute Infectious Arthritis), sometimes mandating examination of synovial fluid. If multiple joints are affected, gout or another systemic rheumatic disease should be considered. If clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritic synovitis is equivocal, x-rays are taken. Suggestive findings include joint space narrowing and bony spurs extending from the metatarsal head or sometimes from the base of the proximal phalanx. Periarticular erosions (Martel sign) seen on imaging studies suggest gout.
Non Surgical Treatment
The treatment of bunions should be individualized because the degree of deformity is not always consistent with the degree of pain. The most important first step in the treatment (and prevention) of bunions is to wear properly fitted shoes, with a low heel and adequate room in the toe area. Further treatment may include relative rest and icing to decrease pain around the MTP joint, medications to reduce inflammation and pain, stretching and strengthening exercises and shoe orthotics. If the above measures are not successful, surgery may be required.
Recent advances in surgical techniques have led to very high success rates for bunion surgery. In most cases the patient can walk immediately after surgery without crutches. As well most patients find the surgery to be virtually pain free. Almost all bunion surgery is done as an outpatient at a surgery center. Most bunion surgery is performed with a local anesthetic block and IV sedation (twilight sleep). After the procedure you will be moved to the recovery room for about an hour. You will then be ready to go home.