Bunions, scientifically known as hallux valgus, refer to the bone deformity at the joint of the big toe. As they develop, the big toe begins to point inward, overlapping adjacent toes. This causes the big toe joint to enlarge and swell. It's not uncommon for the skin at the base of the big toe to turn red, leading some to mistake it for a skin disorder. Gradually, individuals may notice an increasingly crooked or unsightly appearance of their big toe. Some bunion sufferers might also feel pain when walking or wearing shoes.

Causes of Bunions

The primary cause of bunions lies in abnormalities in foot bone structure, which are typically hereditary. These can include conditions like flat feet or a slanted big toe. Contrary to some beliefs, wearing high heels or tight shoes isn't a direct cause, but they can exacerbate the symptoms.

Symptoms of Bunions

At the onset, when the big toe has only slightly deviated, symptoms might be non-existent. However, as the condition worsens, particularly when wearing tight shoes, you might experience:

  • A noticeable bulge at the base of the big toe.
  • Swelling, redness, or pain in the same area.
  • Intermittent or constant foot pain.
  • Thickened skin at the toe base.
  • Reduced movement in the big toe, leading to walking difficulties.

Potential Complications

If bunions are not addressed, they can lead to complications such as:

  • Bursitis: Inflammation of a bursa, a fluid-filled sac cushioning bone, tendon, and muscle around joints. This results in painful inflammation.
  • Hammer Toe: This condition develops when a toe joint becomes dislocated, bending or curling downwards, causing pain and increased pressure.
  • Pain and swelling on the sole of the foot.

Diagnosing Bunions

To diagnose bunions, a clinical examination of the foot exterior is required. In certain cases, for more clarity, an x-ray might be recommended.

Treatment Options

Bunion treatment is largely determined by symptom severity. Initial measures might include:

  • Changing footwear.
  • Wearing supportive insoles.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers.
  • Avoiding activities that worsen symptoms.
  • Ice massages for pain and swelling relief.

If these methods are ineffective and daily activities become painful, surgery might be necessary to realign the bone, tendon, and nerves.

Bunion Prevention

Comfortable footwear can both relieve bunion symptoms and prevent their development. Prioritise comfort when shoe shopping to ensure less pressure on foot joints and bones.