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Bunion (Hallux Valgus)

A bunion is a bony bump that can form at the base of the big toe, while the toe itself bends inwards. The bump is caused by the bone that is sticking out – the metatarsal bone – rubbing on the shoes. The Latin term, hallux valgus, comes from ‘hallux’ which means the big toe and ‘valgus’ which means pointing outwards.

What causes bunions?

You’re more likely to have bunions if:

  • You wear badly fitting shoes
  • You have unusually flexible joints
  • There’s a family history of the problem
  • You have flat feet
  • You have rheumatoid arthritis or gout
  • You are affected by other health conditions including polio or cerebral palsy

What are the signs of a bunion?

  • A bony bump on the outside edge of the foot. The bump can start to rub on the shoes, leading to pain and swelling
  • Red, hardened skin where the big toe and second toe overlap
  • Bones in the ball of the foot (metatarsal bones) can also begin to stick out
  • The small toe joints can become deformed – this is known as hammer toes

If bunions aren’t treated, the symptoms can become worse and the foot can become more deformed. In some cases, where the big toe pushes underneath the second toe, this can cause big toe arthritis.

How are bunions diagnosed?

During your first appointment, you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your symptoms with Mr Heidari who will usually carry out a number of diagnostic tests including X-rays to identify any damage to the joints.

What does treatment involve?

Not everyone with bunions needs to have surgery and Mr Heidari will be able to advise you about the type of treatment that’s best for you.

Non-surgical treatment includes using toe-spacers or realignment splints to help reposition the toes. Padded insoles and specially made shoes can also help, along with anti-inflammatory painkillers (if advised by your doctor).

Some people need to have bunion surgery to correct the deformities, realigning the foot so they can wear their normal shoes and get back to their everyday activities. If you already have big toe arthritis, then realignment surgery may not be an option, and Mr Heidari may suggest big toe fusion surgery.

This information is written as a guide to your treatment but it is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Please contact us for advice if you are worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.