Podiatry Terms & Descriptions – Bunions

What is a Bunion? (Hallux Abducto Valgus)

Bunions are a common foot disorder of the inherent bone structure at the front of the foot. Bunions are not a deformity passed on from previous generations, but certain types of feet are more prone to developing bunions. Bunions are described as a disorder in which the deviation of the normal alignment of the upper foot begins as the big toe, or Hallux, bends inward toward the smaller toes over a period of time, causing the bone of the big toe joint to protrude towards the inner foot. The misalignment of the big toe can also cause other toes to overlap. The result of this deformity can cause extreme pain and swelling at the protrusion or “bump” and make walking difficult. Bunions do not always become inflamed or painful and it is possible to have the disorder without ever having to seek treatment. However, because bunions transform the foot gradually, symptoms usually appear in adults during the later stages of the disorder.

Symptoms of a Bunion

Bunions can be exacerbated by wearing shoes that restrict or crowd the toes. The site of the bump can become exceptionally painful and inflamed. Other symptoms of developed bunions can appear as a burning sensation, numbness of the toes and in some cases, shooting pains in the foot.

Diagnosis of Bunions

Because bunions change the alignment of the Hallux (big toe), the bones in the upper foot eventually form a bump at the base of the big toe, or side of the foot, which can be seen with the naked eye. The podiatric foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to ascertain the severity of the bunion formation and to detect other causes for the pain, such as arthritis.

Treatment for Bunions

Treatment plans vary, depending on the size, type, and extent the bunion has impaired the patient’s foot. However, the pain caused by the condition is typically the focus of treatment for bunions. Bunion disorders do not always develop to a degree that requires anything more than professional observation on a regular basis. In less severe cases, the pain caused by bunions can be alleviated by changing the type of shoe worn by the patient. Your foot and ankle surgeon might prescribe limited activity, medications that reduce swelling and pain, and in some situations, the use of custom orthotic devices.

When is Surgery for Bunions Necessary?

Your podiatric surgeon will discuss surgical options with the patient if other recommended treatments have not alleviated the pain and continue to prevent routine activities prevented by bunions.

Recent advances in surgical techniques have led to a very high success rate in treating bunions.

Surgical procedures for bunions can involve removal of the protrusion of the bone on the foot, restructuring of the bones to correct the impairment of the foot, and include the reconstruction of soft tissue alterations which may have been caused by the bunion. Surgical corrections for bunions are aimed at eliminating the pain caused by the disorder.

The podiatric surgeon will recommend one or more surgical procedures on an individual basis. Considerations for surgery will be decided after evaluation of the patient’s previous treatment for the bunion, the age and over-all health of the patient and the regularity of physical activity, among other deciding factors. After surgery for bunions, the period of recovery will vary for each patient dependent upon the performed procedure(s).