A bunion is most often a symptom of faulty mechanics of the foot. The deformity runs in families, but it is the foot type that is hereditary, not the bunion. People with flat feet or low arches are more prone to develop the problem than those with higher arches. Bunions also may be associated with various forms of arthritis. Arthritis can cause the joint's protective covering of cartilage to deteriorate, leaving the joint damaged and with a decreased range of motion, or painful range of motion .Parents who have bunions should know that there is a strong hereditary predisposition to bunion development, and should have children evaluated if early signs of deformity and/or discomfort are evident. If the child has the same foot type, there is a possibility that a bunion will eventually develop. Bunion surgical procedure example >>
A bunion (from the Latin "bunio," meaning enlargement) is a protuberance of bone or tissue around the joint. The enlargement occurs either at the base of the great toe or on the outside of the foot, at the base of the little toe where it is called a "bunionette" or "tailor's bunion."
Bunions at the base of the great toe usually begin when the big toe begins to move toward the smaller toes, often due to tight, pointed shoes. This crowding puts pressure on the joint, pushing it outward. The movement of the joint in this outward direction starts the formation of a bunion.
A common deformity of the big toe joint, a bunion occurs mostly among people who wear shoes. Women are more frequently affected with bunions because of tight, pointed, confining or high-heeled shoes. Wearing high heels is especially stressful on the joints of the foot because all of the body's weight rests there. The foot is then forced into a narrow, pointed "toe box", compounding the problem. Older people are also vulnerable to bunions because of the higher incidence of arthritis affecting the big toe joint.
Men and women alike can be a greater risk for development of bunions due to a genetic predisposition or due to increased motion at all the joints of the foot because of a flat foot deformity.
The main goal of early treatment is to relieve pressure on the bunion and smaller toes, and to diminish the progression of joint deformities.
Padding the bunion is an important first step, as is wearing shoes that are large enough to comfortably accommodate the bunion (such as sandals, athletic shoes or shoes made from soft leather). Stiff leather shoes may be stretched slightly for greater comfort. Tight, confining or high-heeled shoes should be avoided.
Medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or cortisone injections, may be prescribed to ease pain and inflammation caused by joint deformities.
Physical therapy, ultrasound treatment, whirlpool baths or other techniques can also provide temporary relief.
Orthoses (shoe inserts) may be useful in controlling abnormal foot movement, and may reduce symptoms for those with a painful bunion that has not yet caused a significant bony abnormality at the joint. If a systemic disease like rheumatoid arthritis or gouty arthritis is related to the bunion, appropriate medical treatment may be recommended.