What is Hallux Valgus (Bunion)? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Last Updated on April 13, 2020 by Fahad Zahid

It might be shocking to know that 75% of the Americans face “foot issues” once in their lifetime.

Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon, and Hallux Valgus (Bunion) are some of the common foot conditions, observed all around the world.

These foot conditions have a great impact on lives, especially by reducing productivity and halting the work routine.

Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendon are a form of pain in the heel; however, Bunion is related to the deformation of the big toe. A bunion (Bony Bump) appears at the base of the joint of the big toe. In bunion, the joint of the big toe grows bigger and big toe pushes the other toe of the foot.

You will learn about a bunion, its causes, symptoms, and treatment in our next discussion. Be with us.

What is a Bunion (Hallux Valgus)?

What-is-Hallux-Valgus-Bunion

You will be amazed to find out that 25% of all the bone in your body is present in your foot. While, most people assume a bunion to be nothing more than a side bump on the big toe, but it actually affects deeper, penetrating into the joint in the big toe. Therefore, a bunion is a kind of deformation or a side bump of the big toe, leading to the altered foot shape.

A bunion appears due to the misalignment of foot bones, making the big toe pointing towards the second toe.

Tailor’s Bunion or Bunionette is the condition when bunion appears on the outside of foot i.e. the little toe. In addition, an Adolescent Bunion affects adolescents between the age of 10 to 15.

Complications due to Bunion

When a bunion is not diagnosed and treated on time, it may become worse. The side bump arising in the bunion gets painful upon putting pressure onto the toe area i.e. when wearing uncomfortable and tight shoes.

Actually, the foot becomes wider in the toe area and it is difficult to find yourself a wide enough shoe. Therefore, the bunion progresses causing redness, swelling, severe inflammation, blistering and even infection of the skin over a bunion bump.

In extreme cases, the following complication may result:

Metatarsalgia

What-is-Hallux-Valgus-Bunion-metatarsalgia

A bunion may lead to inflammation and pain in the ball of the foot. Actually, the other toes take up most of the pressure, resulting in pain under the ball of foot i.e. Metatarsalgia.

Hammertoe

What-is-Hallux-Valgus-Bunion-hammertoes

A bunion may affect the second toe i.e. toe adjacent to the big toe. The big toe tilts and presses over the second toe; thereby, misaligning it from the natural position.

Bursitis

What-is-Hallux-Valgus-Bunion-bursitis

Bursitis is a painful condition, resulting from the inflammation of bursae i.e. the small fluid-filled pads. These natural pads, cushion your muscles, tendons, and bones near the joints.

Stages of Bunion

stages-of-Hallux-Valgus-Bunion

The sufferers of this disease may face the following stages.

  • Leaning of the Big toe towards other toes.
  • An initial Bunion with no pain.
  • A progressed Bunion exhibiting slight pain in the foot, particularly toes.
  • Experiencing severe pain when wearing tight or closed shoes.
  • Experiencing severe pain (with and without shoes).

This foot deformity can make the situation worse over time. Therefore, timely diagnosis and treatment are highly recommended in order to avoid progression and associated complications.

Symptoms of Hallux Valgus (Bunion)

symptoms-of-Hallux-Valgus-Bunion

The early stages of bunion formation mostly go unobserved. This is because a bunion only produces signs or symptoms after initial development.

Symptoms appear only after the condition has progressed or worsened. One of the most common and noticeable bunion symptoms is the bulging bump at the joint of the big toe. Besides bulging bump, the following symptoms might also be observed.

  • Redness and swelling at the base of the big toe.
  • Pain (Maybe intermittent or continuous).
  • Pain aggravated upon wearing high heels or tight shoes. Tight shoes crowd the toes, while high heels put pressure on the toes area, worsening both the condition and pain.
  • Pain accompanied by a burning feeling.
  • Severe pain may also be followed by numbness and walking difficulty.
  • A sufferer cannot move the big toe freely.

Who is more likely to experience a Bunion?

A bunion is not an age-specific disease; therefore, it may show up at any age. However, females are more likely to suffer from this foot disease than males.

One reason for the more probability of Bunion in females is high heels, in addition to small or tight shoes.

According to the study, conducted by Foot and Ankle Society, around 55% of the women (out of 88%) experience bunion. These women frequently wore small and tight shoes. Individuals with flat feet are also more prone to developing a bunion in their lives.

Besides gender and flat feet, a bunion may also be hereditary. It tends to run in families; however, it is a recessive disorder. Therefore, bunion has a small chance of affecting the next generation.

What Causes Hallux Valgus or Bunion?

Apart from the aforementioned people (who are more prone to this disease), there are the following causes of Hallux Valgus.

  • Wearing small or tight shoes.
  • Wearing high heels which put entire body pressure on the front of the feet, the toes.
  • Some serious foot injuries that affect foot alignment.
  • Age factor may also be related to bunion development.
  • People who walk more on a daily basis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disorder.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bunion

Timely diagnosis is the best way to treat any ailment properly. You should see a doctor, specialized in foot disorder treatment, orthopedic or podiatrist, as soon as you experience following symptoms:

  • A recurrent or continuous foot pain, especially at the big toe.
  • A side bump or lump at the base of your big toe i.e. the big toe joint.
  • Inability to move your big toe or numbness.
  • Pain upon wearing tight-fitting shoes or heels.

A general observation is the most common and typical method for bunion diagnosis. A bunion shows up as an obvious side bump at the base of the big toe.

In addition, a confirmation test such as an X-ray is also recommended. The X-ray will confirm your physician of the present state of foot deformity and bunion. This will consequently help to treat the case according to the severity of the bunion.

Generally, there are two options for treating a Bunion or Hallux Valgus. The first and foremost choice is to relieve bunion pain or non-surgical treatment.

While a second choice is a surgical treatment. Surgical treatment is only prescribed when bunion has progressed to a stage where no preventive and non-surgical treatments remain effective.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Prevention is the first step towards curing any disease. This includes non-surgical approaches and natural remedies with zero side effects. Following are some of these non-surgical approaches:

Wearing Comfortable Shoes

comfortable-shoes-for-Hallux-Valgus-Bunion

Always chose your shoes that are comfortable and not squeeze your foot. So, the best shoes for bunion can prevent you from pain. These shoes provide sufficient space for your toes.

Using Bunion Pads or Bunion Splints

Bunion Pads and Bunion Splints are also available in the market. By applying these pads or splints you can avoid pain while walking. In most of the cases, doctors recommend these pads for pain. You may also use some custom made orthotics.

Pain Relieving Medicines

Over the counter (OTC) medicines can be used to mitigate the severity of pain due to hallux valgus.

Non-steroidal or acetaminophen anti-inflammatory medicines are recommended. Ibuprofen and various pain killer medicines are advised to take while one feels pain.

Home remedies

Several home remedies are also beneficial to curb the pain. These include:

  • Applying Heat – Bunion patients are mostly observed to face more pain in winter. Low temperature stiffens the tissues which may lead to pain. However, by applying heat on the swollen part of the big toe the pain can be controlled.
  • Applying Ice – When facing severe pain, inflammation and swelling, applying ice onto the affected area is of the best remedies. Ice provides immediate relief from pain and inflammation.
  • Applying Turmeric Paste – Turmeric naturally possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Applying turmeric paste, combined with honey and ginger, could provide immediate relief from pain by reducing tissue inflammation and stiffness. You may apply this turmeric paste at the joint of the big toe.
  • Massaging Essential Oils – One of the best remedies is the use of essential oils for massaging the swollen joint. In this regard, oregano and thyme essential oils are particularly effective, providing immediate relief from inflammation.

Surgical Treatment

treatment-for-Hallux-Valgus-Bunion-surgery

Surgery is the last option to get rid of this disease. Above mentioned methods are used to alleviate the pain.

Nevertheless, the foot shape can not be corrected by these methods. By surgery, a patient can get an aligned big toe without any pain.

The aim of this treatment is to put bones, nerves, tendons, and ligaments in the right alignment. Surgical treatment is only recommended in severe cases.

If a patient faces severe pain frequently in a day or the foot deforms extremely, then surgery may be suggested.

Surgical treatment is mostly recommended for ‘Tailor’s Bunion or Bunionette’ and not for the ‘Adolescent Bunion’.

In 85% of the cases, the bunion is permanently removed with the surgery. However, a bunion may return back, even after the surgical treatment. In such cases, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Delayed bone healing or healing occurring in a faulty position.
  • Damage to the nerves in your foot.
  • Toe joints getting stiff and taut.
  • Pain on the foot area, under the ball.
  • Returning of pain and swelling.

Hence, in such rare cases, another surgery may be required.

Tip of the day

 As per our above discussion, you can see that shoes play an important role in this disease. Therefore, always chose the best and comfortable shoes, hereby, you can prevent it.

Know about other Foot Related Problems:

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