A bunion, also known as hallux valgus, is a bony projection affecting the joint at the base of the big toe. The condition looks like a bump on the outer portion of the joint.
Anatomy and Symptoms
Your big toe (hallux) is normally set in alignment with your other toes. A bunion can develop from pressure on the base of the big toe. This can result from stress on the toe related to structural problems in the leg and foot. Wearing narrow or high-heeled shoes that press the toes together can also contribute to bunions. You are more likely to develop the condition if you have arthritis or a family history of joint weakness.
The side of your big toe may first appear irritated and swollen. Later, the bone in this area thickens and protrudes abnormally. As the deformity grows worse, the big toe begins to point toward the other toes on the affected foot. Fluid may accumulate under the skin and you will likely experience pain and stiffness in your foot.
Care for Bunions
Obtain medical advice from your doctor. After discussing your symptoms, X-rays may be needed for a diagnosis. It is important to find the source of the bunion, especially those related to anatomical problems. Treatment may include non-surgical or surgical interventions.
A non-surgical approach focuses on relieving symptoms. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen for can be taken for pain. Applying ice packs will also help shrink swollen tissues that press on the joint.
Wide-toed shoes that fit well also help stop pain. Make sure your shoes have good arch support, which will relieve pressure on the bunion. Small, ring-shaped bunion pads will reduce rubbing from your shoe. When possible, wear comfortable slippers or sandals that do not press on the bunion.
Correcting the anatomical cause of the bunion may involve use of positioning devices or, in some cases, surgical treatment. Surgery allows your doctor to remove the bunion and realign the bones in your big toe.
Infection is a primary concern with bunions. Your risk for infection increases if you have diabetes, poor circulation, or peripheral vascular disease.