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What Are Hallux Valgus?

Overview
Bunion Pain
A simple bunion is an abnormal bump of bone that is formed at the head of our old friend, the first metatarsal bone. The bunion can either be on the top or side of the first metatarsal bone. In a more advanced bunion deformity, called Hallux Abducto Valgus, there starts to be a movement of the big toe toward the second toe. The most severe bunion is when the first toe not only moves toward the second toe, but it overlaps or underlaps the second toe. Bunions can cause swelling of the feet to occur.


Causes
Bunions are most often caused by an faulty foot mechanics. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause bunions in the first place, it sometimes makes the deformity get progressively worse. That means you may experience symptoms sooner.


Symptoms
The pain from a bunion is felt around the MTP joint of the big toe. People with bunions often complain of pain when they when they stand or walk for long periods of time. High heeled shoes or shoes with a small toe area can make bunions feel and look worse. As a result of the deformity the big toe can lose some of its range of motion or become stiff. Sometimes both feet are affected.


Diagnosis
Your doctor will ask questions about your past health and carefully examine your toe and joint. Some of the questions might be: When did the bunions start? What activities or shoes make your bunions worse? Do any other joints hurt? The doctor will examine your toe and joint and check their range of motion. This is done while you are sitting and while you are standing so that the doctor can see the toe and joint at rest and while bearing weight. X-rays are often used to check for bone problems or to rule out other causes of pain and swelling. Other tests, such as blood tests or arthrocentesis (removal of fluid from a joint for testing), are sometimes done to check for other problems that can cause joint pain and swelling. These problems might include gout , rheumatoid arthritis , or joint infection.


Non Surgical Treatment
This is probably the most important step. Wearing the right footwear can help reduce stress on a minor deformity and reduce the likelihood of it progressing. Recommendations are that the forefoot easily fits within the width of the shoe and there is adequate cushioning and arch support. Soft materials such as smooth leather, suede or fabric will also help to reduce irritation to the area. The podiatrist plays an invaluable role in managing patients with bunions. This is because they can offer a number of options to the patient that can help relieve pain and reduce the severity of the deformity. They can also reduce pressure on skin lesions that develop as a result of the biomechanical changes. Podiatrists can prescribe customised orthotic devices that help reduce the stress on a bunion and control biomechanical factors which cause them. These may be used in conjunction with bunion splints or cushions to further offload the area. Evidence has shown a significant reduction in pain with the use of customized orthotic devices.
Bunion Pain


Surgical Treatment
Many studies have found that 85 to 90 percent of patients who undergo bunion surgery are satisfied with the results. Fewer than 10 percent of patients experience complications from bunion surgery. Possible complications can include infection, recurrence of the bunion, nerve damage, and continued pain. If complications occur, they are treatable but may affect the extent of your full recovery.


Prevention
The simplest way to reduce your chance of developing foot bunion or bunionette problems is to wear good-fitting shoes. Avoid high heels as they push your feet forwards to the front of the shoe where they get squashed. Also avoid narrow fitting shoes, especially those that are pointed at the front with a narrow toe box as again, these place pressure through the toes pushing them inwards. Shoes should be comfortable and leave enough room for you to wiggle your toes. Remember, bunions rarely affect non-shoe wearing people. Exercising your feet can also help. By strengthening the foot muscles you can improve your foot position which can help reduce foot bunion problems. Simple exercises like picking up small objects with your toes can help.

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