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Do Bunions Always Require Surgery?

Overview
Bunions
What most people call a bunion is actually known as “Hallux valgus”. Hallux valgus refers to the condition in which the big toe is angled excessively towards the second toe and a bunion is a symptom of the deformity. In a normal foot, the big toe and the long bone that leads up to it (the first metatarsal) are in a straight line. However, Hallux valgus occurs when the long foot bone veers towards your other foot and your big toes drifts towards your second toe. A bunion actually refers to the bony prominence on the side of the big toe. This can also form a large sac of fluid, known as a bursa, which can then become inflamed and sore.


Causes
Bunions tend to run in families, although it is the faulty foot mechanics that lead to bunions that are inherited, not the bunions themselves. Some authorities, in fact, suggest that the most significant factor in bunion formation is the poor foot mechanics passed down through families. However, the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society estimates that women have bunions nine times more often than men, that 88 percent of women in the United States wear shoes that are too small, and that 55 percent of women have bunions. Again, this reflects the wearing of shoes with tight, pointed toes, or with high heels that shift all of your body’s weight onto your toes and also jam your toes into your shoes’ toe boxes. It should be noted that it generally takes years of continued stress on the toes for bunions to develop.


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
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.


Non Surgical Treatment
Changing your footwear to roomy and comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes. Padding and taping applied by chiropodist/podiatrist to your foot can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain. Oral medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may help control the pain of a bunion. Cortisone injections. Over-the-counter arch supports can help distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Prescription foot orthotic devices to help stabilize the forefoot. Manual foot therapy to free up motion in arthritic foot joints.
Bunions Hard Skin


Surgical Treatment
Surgery takes place either under local or general anaesthetic and takes about one hour. After surgery you will have either a plaster cast or special dressing on the foot and you will be given a special walking shoe and crutches to use the first few days/weeks. Recovery usually takes approximately 6-8 weeks but swelling often lasts longer and it may take a few months before you are able to wear normal shoes again. Full recovery can take up to a year. Bunion surgery is successful in approximately 85% of cases, but it is vital not to go back to wearing ill-fitting shoes else the problem is likely to return.

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