Hallux valgus may sound like a curse from Harry Potter, but it?s the medical term for a bunion, a bony growth where the big toe joins the foot. At best a bunion is an unsightly bump which can get a bit red and sore. If it gets big enough it limits the type of shoes you can wear, and sometimes a painful sac of fluid known as a bursa develops around it. But left untreated, a bunion really can become a curse if it starts to push the big toe towards the smaller ones, causing more problems such as hammer toes, or problems in the spine and legs.
Despite the popular belief, wearing high heels and too-narrow shoes does not cause bunions. Wearing them can irritate, aggravate, or accelerate the formation of the bunion, but are not the root cause. Bunions are more commonly inherited, if your parents or grandparents had bunions, you may also get one. Bunions can also be caused by trauma or injury to the joints, ligaments, or bones of the foot.
A bulging bump on the outside of the base of your big toe. Swelling, redness or soreness around your big toe joint aggravated by footwear. Red, calloused skin along the inside edge of the big toe. Corns or calluses under the ball of the foot or where the first and second toes overlap. Persistent or intermittent pain. Restricted movement of your big toe.
Clinical findings are usually specific. Acute circumferential intense pain, warmth, swelling, and redness suggest gouty arthritis (see Gout) or infectious arthritis (see Acute Infectious Arthritis), sometimes mandating examination of synovial fluid. If multiple joints are affected, gout or another systemic rheumatic disease should be considered. If clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritic synovitis is equivocal, x-rays are taken. Suggestive findings include joint space narrowing and bony spurs extending from the metatarsal head or sometimes from the base of the proximal phalanx. Periarticular erosions (Martel sign) seen on imaging studies suggest gout.
Non Surgical Treatment
Patients should immediately cease using improperly fitted shoes. Footwear selection should have a wide and roomy toebox to accommodate the full width of the foot. If the problem is the over-pronation, the patient should be fitted with orthotics and can expect a slow recovery from pain over a period of months. Orthotics will not cause the physical deformity to regress, but will simply arrest any further progression and likely stop the pain. It is important to note however, that when bunions are severe and require surgery, the bunion can be corrected, but will develop again unless the root cause of over-pronation is corrected. If over-pronation is the root cause, orthotics will still be necessary.
There are many different procedures that have been described to correct bunions. The type of operation your foot surgeon recommends to correct your bunion should be dictated by the severity of your bunion deformity and the surgeon?s preference. There are well over 100 different bunion correction procedures described in the orthopaedic literature. However, the broad categories of bunion correction procedures are listed below. Removal of the medial eminence. Distal metatarsal osteotomy (chevron) with great toe soft-tissue tightening (medial capsular tightening and distal soft-tissue repair). Proximal metatarsal osteotomy Ludloff, Cresentic, SCARF, medial opening wedge) with with great toe soft-tissue tightening (medial capsular tightening and distal soft-tissue repair). Lapidus hallux valgus correction (first tarsometatarsal joint fusion) with distal soft tissue procedure. Great Toe Fusion (1st MTP joint arthrodesis). Akin osteotomy (Realignment bone cut at the base of the big toe). Removal of the medial eminence with suture stabilization of the first and second metatarsals. Keller joint arthroplasty (removal of the proximal aspect of the proximal phalanx).