What is a bunion?

A bunion refers to the ‘bump’ that forms on the side of the big toe. In medical terms, it is referred to as hallux valgus. A bunion is much more than just a bump on the side of a toe, involving changes in the bony structure at the front of the foot. The big toe moves away from the midline of the body and rather than pointing straight it moves towards the 2nd toe, changing the alignment and therefore a ‘bump’ is produced. It is a progressive disorder, with symptoms generally getting worse with time.

Did you know:

Bunions occur in around 23% of adults aged between 18 and 65. Women are twice as likely to develop them as men. This statistic increases to as many as 35% in people over 65 years.

What are the symptoms?

Pain from bunions, occurring at the site on the big toe, is due to soft tissue inflammation and irritation. Redness, burning and sometimes numbness may also be experienced. Symptoms are most noticeable when wearing footwear, which often rubs on the bunion causing discomfort. High heels can also aggravate the area.

So how is a bunion caused and why do only some people get them?

Bunions are commonly inherited, caused by a mechanical structure of the foot not working as efficiently as it should. Muscles pull around the joint which can be unstable, causing the joint deviation. People often report their parents or grandparents also suffered with the condition. This inherited foot type makes you more prone to developing the bunion.

Wearing tight footwear and high heels will not cause a bunion to develop as such, however they will make the deformity progressively worse and therefore symptoms may appear sooner.

How are bunions diagnosed?

Early diagnosis is important so a suitable management plan can be arranged. A visit to your podiatrist will involve assessing the extent of the bunion, muscle strength, joint range of motion, your biomechanics (the way you walk) and footwear.

Do I require treatment for this condition?

Treatment of a bunion ranges from observation in early mild cases, to surgery for more advanced cases. Conservative treatment may include: footwear modification, protective padding, bracing or night splints or orthoses (arch supports). A podiatrist is trained to treat bunions, and can arrange appropriate referrals to someone where a surgical treatment is necessary. This would be indicated where conservative treatment options had failed, and the pain from a bunion is impacting normal daily living.

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Article written by ATUNE Podiatrist, Kirby Read.