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Bunions aka a wonky big toe

The medical term is Hallux abducto valgus, but Bunion is much easier and quicker to say!. Sometimes painful, often odd-looking, but why do they occur and what can be done to help?

So just to clarify, the bunion is the inflamed and sometimes painful joint that is at the base of your big toe. The actual condition is Hallux abducto valgus (HAV), which is where the bones of the big toe (Hallux) become dislocated with the bones of the midfoot (Metatarsal). It is this movement of the joint between the two that causes the bunion.

But why does it occur, and what treatment is there for it?

What causes a bunion?

So we already know that it is the movement of two bones which cause the actual bunion, but what causes those bones to move so much. Well unfortunately there's no single answer, and there is also no consensus on the actual cause. The most commonly agreed upon causes include:

  • Genetics - you may have inherited a specific bone structure in your feet that makes you more likely to cause the HAV condition.

  • Footwear - the wearing of high heel shoes, or any shoe that places more pressure on the large big toe joint could cause or worsen the condition.

  • Hypermobility - if you're joints are more mobile/loose than normal, then this could mean your joints have a greater chance of abnormal movement.

But it could also be due to the shape of the head of the bones in your feet, damage to the bones or joints e.g. arthritis, and many more causes!

Symptoms of a bunion - now and tomorrow..

So the obvious symptom is the physical movement of the bones, and the visual look of the toe, but this is just the start.

An HAV, or bunion, is a progressive condition that will continue to worsen over time (though that time varies widely between individuals). It will eventually produce hard, callused, red skin over the joint (the bunion), which is likely to be sore and worsened by the pressure of wearing shoes.

As the big toe continues to move, it will begin to rub against toe number 2. This could result in an ingrowing toenail, more sore lesions, callus, or corns. Ultimately the big toe will move either under or over the second toe, once the joint has fully dislocated.

What are my Treatment options?

So what can be done to help you with this condition? So you've two main choices, surgical and non-surgical. Having surgery carried out on your toe will straighten the toe back to where it should be with pins, only really recommended if there is considerable discomfort. Most patients look at the non-surgical treatments, which are more conservative but won't reverse the condition.

Your podiatrist will be able to assist you with customised padding and/or orthotics, plus advice on footwear (even stretching your own footwear so that it is more comfortable).

In a nut shell...

The only true cure of a bunion (HAV) is surgery, but that's only really for the more extreme cases. Most patients' feet will be able to live a completely happy life with the help of a podiatrist.

Don't live with painful feet - See a Podiatrist!

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