Hallux Valgus (Bunion)

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What is a hallux valgus?

A hallux valgus, commonly known as a bunion, is a bony bump which typically develops at the big toe's base. It forms when the big toe pushes up against the toe next to it, and this leads to the big toe joint becoming bigger and sticking out. The skin above a hallux valgus can become red and sore.

Smaller types of hallux valgus, called bunionettes, can be created on the little toe joint.

What causes a hallux valgus?

While the root cause of a hallux valgus is not yet known, there are a few factors which are understood to contribute. These include; deformities from birth, foot injuries and inherited foot type. It is thought that shoes which are too narrow or tight may cause a hallux valgus and speed up their development, but this has not yet been proven. Conditions which are associated with a hallux valgus include rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of hallux valgus

The main symptom of a hallux valgus is the bony bump which bulges at the base of the big toe. It is normal to feel soreness in this area, along with swelling and redness. Corns and calluses can develop at the point where the first and second toes cross over. If you also have arthritis which is affecting the big toe, a hallux valgus can restrict the movement of the joint.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor or orthopaedic specialist: Persistent big toe or foot pain; a noticeable bump on the big toe joint; difficulty fitting into shoes because of a hallux valgus; and a markedly decreased range of movement in the big toe and foot.

Treatment options for hallux valgus

The treatment which is chosen for a hallux valgus will vary according to the severity of the condition, and the pain level caused by it. Non-surgical treatments for a hallux valgus include; changing to shoes which are more spacious and comfortable; orthotic inserts, which can balance pressure distribution when walking; arch supports; ice treatment, applied indirectly; and painkillers.

For cases in which the treatments outlined above have proven ineffective, surgery can be considered. This would usually only be for cases of a hallux valgus which is causing regular pain and thus impacting on quality of life.

Surgical procedures which are used to treat a hallux valgus include; the removal of tissue which is swollen; the removal of a bone part which allows the big toe to be straightened; and the realignment of the great toe joint.

Depending on the type of procedure which has been undergone, recovery from hallux valgus surgery can take anything from a few weeks to several months. However, you should be able to walk not long after the procedure.

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