How To Diagnose Bunions

Overview

Bunions Callous

People think of a bunion as being as a bump on the side of the foot near the big toe. However, bunions go deeper than what we can see. Although the skin might be red, a bunion actually reflects a change in the anatomy of the foot. Bunions happen over time. What begins as the big toe pointing toward the second toe ends up as changes in the actual alignment of the bones in the foot. There is also a condition called tailor?s bunion or bunionette. This type of bump differs from a bunion in terms of the location. A tailor?s bunion is found near the base of the little toe on the outside of the foot.

Causes

Many problems that occur in the feet are the result of abnormal pressure or rubbing. One way of understanding what happens in the foot due to abnormal pressure is to view the foot simply. Our simple model of a foot is made up of hard bone covered by soft tissue that we then put a shoe on top of. Most of the symptoms that develop over time are because the skin and soft tissue are caught between the hard bone on the inside and the hard shoe on the outside. Any prominence, or bump, in the bone will make the situation even worse over the bump. Skin responds to constant rubbing and pressure by forming a callus. The soft tissues underneath the skin respond to the constant pressure and rubbing by growing thicker. Both the thick callus and the thick soft tissues under the callus are irritated and painful. The answer to decreasing the pain is to remove the pressure. The pressure can be reduced from the outside by changing the pressure from the shoes. The pressure can be reduced from the inside by surgically removing any bony prominence.

Symptoms

The symptoms of hallux valgus usually center on the bunion. The bunion is painful. The severe hallux valgus deformity is also distressing to many and becomes a cosmetic problem. Finding appropriate shoe wear can become difficult, especially for women who want to be fashionable but have difficulty tolerating fashionable shoe wear. Finally, increasing deformity begins to displace the second toe upward and may create a situation where the second toe is constantly rubbing on the shoe.

Diagnosis

X-rays are the best way to determine the amount of deformity of the MTP joint. Blood work may be required to rule out other diseases that may be associated with bunions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Other tests such as bone scans or MRI's are not usually required.

Non Surgical Treatment

Separating the big toe and the next one with a 1 cm thick piece of foam can relieve painful symptoms. This can be fixed in place with some zinc oxide plaster tape and has the effect of straightening the great toe and relieving pressure on the bunion. A taping technique will support the joint and relieve the pressure on the inside of the foot. Off the shelf orthotic insoles can be worn to help correct any biomechanical problems in the foot which may be causing the problem. If the foot rolls in or over pronates then this causes the arch of the foot to flatten and more pressure is placed on the base of the big toe where the bunion forms. A podiatrist is a therapist who specializes in feet. They can do a full gait analysis and make orthotic inserts to correct biomechanical foot problems. Severe cases may require surgery to realign the joint but this is a last resort if conservative treatment has failed.

Bunions Callous

Surgical Treatment

If surgery is required to correct a symptomatic bunion, there are several procedures that may be used, depending on the size and degree of the deformity. For mild deformities, a simple shaving of the bony prominence may suffice. At the same time, the tissues on the inner, or medial, side of the joint are tightened to hold the great toe in a more neutral alignment. When only the bone is shaved, this procedure is commonly referred to as a ?Silver? procedure. When the bone is shaved and the soft tissues tightened, this is called a ?modified McBride? procedure.

Prevention

Because bunions develop slowly, taking care of your feet during childhood and early adulthood can pay off later in life. Keep track of the shape of your feet as they develop over time, especially if foot problems run in your family. Exercising your feet can strengthen them. Learn to pick up small objects, like a pencil or pebble, with your toes. Wear shoes that fit properly and don't cramp or pinch your toes. Women should avoid shoes with very high heels or pointed toes.

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