A hallux valgus or bunion is a bump on the base of the big toe due to enlargement of bone or soft tissues around the joint. Bunions develop due to imbalanced weight-bearing on the joints and tendons of your foot. This uneven shifting in pressure makes the joint unstable, slowly leading to the formation of a hard knob that protrudes out of your foot. The most common cause of a hallux valgus is prolonged wearing of ill-fitting footwear that are high-heeled, narrow, too small or pointy, with a narrow toe box, which compress the toes into unnatural positions.
Bunions are much more prevalent in women, causing pain with ambulation when wearing shoes, swelling, redness, decreased mobility of the toe and inward turning of the big toe toward the second toe. A hallux valgus can further lead to calloused skin at the base of the big toe and formation of corns and calluses.
When you present to the clinic with these symptoms, your doctor performs a thorough physical examination and may order X-rays to determine the extent of damage and deformity of the toe joints.
Treatment may include conservative treatment such as wearing properly fitted shoes with specially designed shoe inserts, padding and taping, physical therapy and certain medications. If conservative measures fail to treat the bunion pain, then your surgeon may recommend a surgical procedure to remove the bunion. There are several surgical options to treat a bunion. Soft tissues around the toe may be shortened or lengthened, swollen tissue removed, parts of the bone cut (osteotomy), and bones of the toe joint permanently fused with the placement of screws and plates to straighten the big toe.
Your surgeon will select the appropriate surgical procedure based on your presentation.