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What are the symptoms of Bunions?

What are Bunions?

A bunion (also referred to as hallux valgus) can be described as a bump that forms on the side of the base of your big toe. This bump occurs due to changes in the orientation of the bones at the front part of your foot. This causes the big toe to be pulled toward the second toe, causing the joint at the base of the big toe to stick out and therefore producing the standard bunion bump. Bunions are a progressive issue beginning with the leaning of the toe and with time the angle of the bones can get increasingly prominent.

 Due to the bump rubbing on shoes it can become irritated and the skin over the bump can be red and tender to the touch. Bunions are the most common problem that affects the front part of the foot in adults. They are more common in women than men and are more likely to occur as you get older. There is also an occurrence where this can happen on the joint of the little toe – this is called a bunionette.

What are the symptoms of Bunions?

Apart from the obvious bump on the outside of the base of your big toe, other symptoms can occur. However they usually appear at the later stages of bunion development and some people never experience them, These include:

Over time, if the bunion gets bigger then you may find it harder to walk and your balance may be affected which can increase the likelihood of falls. Finding comfortable shoes can also be challenging.

Possible complications of bunions can include:

What are the common causes of Bunions?

The exact cause of bunions is unknown but it can be likely to include:

How are Bunions diagnosed?

Bunions are normally diagnosed by looking at them.They tend to be quite apparent and the practitioner can also diagnose by asking about your symptoms. It is most likely that your walking will be examined, this is to see if the bunion is affecting the way that you walk.

Although, to evaluate the condition fully, x-rays may be taken to assess the changes that have occurred and the degree of the deformity. Blood tests can be used to rule out conditions with similar symptoms such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. If surgery is required, a further ultrasound or MRI may be necessary but not always.

What are the treatment options for Bunions?

Conservative treatment

Non-surgical treatments that can help relieve the symptoms of a bunion include some of the following options. It is important to note that these methods can help with the symptoms of a bunion but cannot reverse the deformity of the bunion:

Surgical Option

If conservative treatment has not been successful in reducing your bunion symptoms your GP may refer you to see an orthopaedic surgeon to see if this is a viable option for you.

A bunionectomy is the type of surgery used. This basically means the removal of the bunion. This type of surgery is only ever considered under the NHS if it is really painful, progressively getting worse, your second toe is affected by the bunion, you are struggling to find shoes that fit and the bunion is affecting your day-to-day life.

The NHS doesn’t consider the surgical option based on cosmetic appearance alone. This type of surgery isn’t recommended unless there are more than just appearance and are more symptoms as the surgery can cause complications.

There are a few different types of bunion surgery, the most simple being one that reduces the lump on your foot and the more advanced will work to correct the malalignment and make the big toe as straight as possible. The extent of surgery needed is determined by lifestyle and the extent of the bunion.

The operation does not tend to reduce the appearance of a bunion completely but it can ease the symptoms and improve the overall shape of the foot. You may have to wear orthotics post surgery to prevent them from returning again.

Recovery can take from many weeks-months and you may not be able to walk on your foot straight after the procedure and you can’t drive for a number of weeks.

How long do Bunions last?

Bunions cannot be reversed without surgery and even then, this isn’t a guarantee. The best way to deal with bunions is to identify them early and take precautions in order to stop them progressing.

Can Bunions be prevented?

Bunions can be limited from getting worse by wearing footwear that is more suitable for bunion sufferers. This can induced shoes that are wide enough so that you can wiggle your toes comfortably and there isn’t any pressure on the joints at the side of your feet, have a heel lower than 4cm so that the feet aren’t pushed forwards causing excess pressure on the balls of the feet and adjustable fastenings such as straps and laces to hold your foot in the shoe.

If you have any questions about the sort of shoe that is best suited for you it is recommended you speak to a licensed podiatrist. They can also suggest and supply you with orthotics and shoe inserts.

What are the best exercises for Bunions?*

Big toe abduction

Bunion stretch

*It is always recommended to get the go ahead from your GP before carrying out any of these exercises.

Do I need to go to the GP or visit my local hospital?

Bunions themselves don’t need medical treatment and can be helped using self-care at home. However you may find it useful to visit a doctor that specialises in foot disorders (podiatrist or orthopaedic foot specialist) if you have ongoing big toe or foot pain, a visible bump at the big toe joint, decreased movement of the great toe and difficulty finding shoes that fit because of the bunions. It is also recommended that you get specialist assistance with bunions if you have diabetes.
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