Hallux valgus is the medical term for a bunion deformity involving the large big toe joint. In the simplest terms, it is a partial dislocation (or in the most advanced cases a complete dislocation) of the joint at the base of the big toe. As the big toe progressively dislocates towards the small toes, the head of the 1st metatarsal becomes more prominent and can become painful. Despite what a bunion looks like, it is not an abnormal growth of bone or a tumor. The gradual dislocation of the joint causes abnormal function – as the big toe goes in one direction, the first metatarsal head goes in the opposite direction and becomes prominent. Any joint in the body that is partially or completely dislocated cannot function normally until it is corrected.
As toe joint progressively moves out of place, the patient experiences increased pain, local swelling, and redness due to irritation from shoes. There also may be an associated “burning” sensation due to the fact that one of the nerves in the area gets pressed up against the prominent bone from your shoes.
Bunion deformities are certainly very common in some family groups, and therefore there is a significant hereditary factor involved in the development of this deformity. Abnormal mechanical function of the foot is also a major cause in the development of bunion deformities. A small percentage of individuals are actually born with bunion deformities. Statistically, more women have symptomatic bunion deformities than men.
As these deformities progress, the big toe will eventually position itself beneath the 2nd and 3rd toes which will result in hammertoe deformities of these digits. In some more advanced cases, a bursal sack (fluid filled cyst) will develop between the skin and the joint. This is the body’s attempt to cushion the area, but it actually results in more pain. To avoid this, it is best to get a bunion treated as soon as it begins to form.
High-heeled shoes, pointed shoes, and shoes that are too short or too narrow will severely aggravate a bunion deformity. Shoes, however, do not cause bunion deformities; they simply aggravate deformities that are developing or already exist.
Bunions are a complex deformity. When the toe joint is not functioning normally, it has a direct negative effect on the function of the remainder of the foot and ankle over time. Appropriate medical history and physical examination, bio-mechanical evaluation, and x-ray evaluation are necessary to make an accurate diagnosis. We can then recommend the most appropriate treatment plan to the patient.
Conservative treatment such as shoe modifications, foot padding, anti-inflammatory medication, orthoses, and occasionally alternative pain relievers, may be recommended to a patient in an attempt to diminish or eliminate their painful symptoms. Conservative treatment, however, will not change the structural position of the joint. Therefore, splints or digital wedges will not be effective in permanently realigning the joint.
Our bunion foot doctor in Merrillville, IN, may discuss and recommend surgical treatment. There are dozens of surgical procedures which have been developed over the years to treat bunion deformities. Appropriate surgical treatment of a bunion is based on proper evaluation to determine if your deformity is positional or structural.
Our foot surgeons at Weil Foot & Ankle Institute have pioneered a bunion surgery called the “Scarf Procedure” that allows both of your feet to be corrected at the same time, while also allowing you to return to athletic shoes 7-10 days after surgery.
As a general rule, bunion surgical procedures are performed on an outpatient basis in approved surgical centers or in a hospital. It is not uncommon that while your bunion deformity is being surgically treated, other deformities that have developed (such as hammertoes, corns, or calluses) can be treated surgically at the same time.
Following surgery, the foot is bandaged and a post operative shoe is worn for one week. Athletic shoes may be worn after the first week. Weight-bearing exercise and prolonged standing are restricted for the first 6-8 weeks. A home exercise program is important for regaining the strength and flexibility. You may steadily resume activities and wear more fashionable shoes after healing is complete.
Over 200,000 patients have found relief from their foot pain, and we’re confident we can help you too! Tackle your bunion fears and schedule a consultation now. Your feet will thank you! Come experience Weil Foot & Ankle Institute! Our Merrillville foot doctor offers the best podiatry care for bunions, to patients in and around Merrillville, Valparaiso, Portage, Munster, Schererville, Dyer, Chesterton, St. John, Crown Point, Porter, and Highland, IN.
View research and publications from Weil Foot & Ankle Institute on bunion surgery