Bunions: Definition, Operation, Pain And Treatment
Bunions: What Are They, Causes, Pain Relief, Correction, Surgery

Bunions: What Are They, Causes, Pain Relief, Correction, Surgery

By Stacey Williams
Last edited

A bunion, or hallux valgus, is a deformation of the forefoot. Whilst often painless, bunions can be very disabling and require surgery.

What Are Bunions?

The hallux valgus, or bunion, is a deviation from the base of the big toe (hallux in Latin) to the outside (valgus). This is manifested by a lump inside the foot, at the first metatarsal level. Depending on the angle of deviation of the big toe, there are different stages of the hallux valgus. If the deviation is less than 20 °, we speak of light hallux valgus. Between 20 ° and 40 °, the hallux valgus is moderate while it is known as severe beyond 40 °. This can then cause a loss of the functionality of the big toe.

The hallux valgus appears most often in people aged between 40 and 50 and affects women most frequently (90% of cases). It is the most common disease of the forefoot.

Symptoms Of Bunions

Although it is often painless, a bunion can be very disabling. The deformity of the big toe rubs inside the shoe, causing redness, infection of the area of ​​friction and inflammation of the joint (bursitis). The deviation also causes a deformation of the other toes which curl up in a claw-like manner and are accompanied by corns and calluses. With the position of the foot being incorrect during walking, osteoarthritis can develop. In the most serious cases, skin complications may occur.

Causes Of Bunions

The first cause of the appearance of a bunion is the genetic factor. A person is more likely to be affected if one of their close relatives has ever suffered from bunions. People with larger big toes run a higher risk of bunions. Women are much more affected than men, especially after menopause. A laxity of the foot joints promotes their enlargement. Wearing shoes with high heels and pointed toes can also have an effect. Some other diseases may also play a role in the development of bunions.

Treatment And Operation Of Bunions

The treatment of bunions is primarily performed by wearing orthotics or orthopedic insoles that keep the big toe as straight as possible. Appropriate therapeutic shoes can be beneficial. Medications (anti-inflammatory or analgesic) may be prescribed to limit pain.

In case of severe bunions, a surgical operation is necessary. However, it is only offered if the pain is insurmountable and the foot is severely deformed. Performed under local anaesthetic, the most commonly used surgical technique consists of an osteotomy of the first metatarsal and then a reorientation of the bone fragments. This makes it possible to correct the deformation. In some cases, postoperative outcomes may include complications such as infection, edema, stiffness or simply relapse. Convalescence from bunions lasts an average of three to four months. During the first month, it is imperative to wear special orthopedic shoes and limit movement.

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