No, it’s not a spell from Harry Potter, but a very painful curse!
Hallux Abducto Valgus – more commonly known as Bunions – not only look painful, they are painful. Why is it that some people get them, and others don’t? And what causes them anyway? Today we look at all things bunion related.
What is a Bunion?
A bunion is a deformity that develops in the joint at the base of your big toe – the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP). This deformity is actually a progressive partial dislocation of the joint which pushes the big toe towards the second toe, pulling the metatarsal bone outwards. There is also a lesser known condition – the Bunionette. This is essentially the same condition, but occurs on the joint of the little toe.
Who gets Bunions?
Whilst bunions may seem like an older person condition, they can actually occur at any age, particularly if there is a genetic predisposition. Generally, women are more prone to bunions than men. Somewhere between 10-25% of the population is likely to suffer from bunions.
The most obvious symptom is the appearance of the foot and toe. However, bunions are often also painful and can cause joint stiffness. The increased pressure in the joint can cause the skin around the joint to become thickened, red and sore. As the condition progresses, it often changes how the foot works. The pressure the big toe puts on the other toes increases, sometimes leading to problems like hammer toe and claw toe. You might experience pain and difficulty in walking, which increases as the bunion worsens.
Bursitis and Metatarsalgia may also occur as complications, but they are topics for another day.
What Causes Bunions?
There are a number of causes of bunions:
- Hereditary – if your mum or dad suffered from bunions, you might get them too.
- Congenital – some people are born with conditions that can increase the likelihood of bunions. These include low arches or flat feet, cerebal palsy, or hypermobile joints
- Biomechanical – sometimes the way the muscles and joints work together when walking can place excessive pressure on this joint, and speed up progression of the condition
- Shoes – high heels, or shoes that are too tight in the toe, pushing the toes together, can cause bunions
How do you Treat Bunions?
Ideally, if you notice a bunion forming – get treatment early. This may slow the progress and delay the most painful symptoms.
In the first instance – check your shoes. It seems we say this all the time when talking about feet-related issues, but it is essential. If your shoes are too narrow or pointy – particularly through the toe box, your big toe will be pushed sideways, and a bunion is sure to follow. High heels can also be a culprit, so limit the heels where possible.
Symptoms can be relieved with ice – for no more than 20 minutes at a time – or sitting with a rubber band stretched and secured around the bit toes to ‘pull’ them out will provide some relief.
Your podiatrist may recommend padding, to cushion the area. It is important to seek professional advice here, as the padding needs to fit properly or it may exacerbate the problem. If biomechanics are the cause of your bunion, orthotics will help correct the way the foot functions. Orthotics should be properly fitted by a qualified Podiatrist.
In extreme cases, you may consider surgery. This will generally not be done until the patient is an adult, as it may return of the foot is still growing. Surgery may involve shaving the bone, removing the end of the bone, or breaking and realigning the bones. Recover can take up to 12 months.
So, if you notice a bunion beginning to form make an appointment to see a Podiatrist right away. You won’t necessarily stop it forming, but you can certainly slow down its progress!
To make an appointment with our expert Podiatrist call our Baulkham Hills Clinic on 9639 7337.