Bunions (Hallux Valgus)
Hallux valgus, often referred to as “a bunion,” is a deformity of the big toe. The toe tilts over towards the smaller toes and a bony lump appears on the inside of the foot.
Sometimes a soft fluid swelling develops over the bony lump. The bony lump is the end of the “knuckle-bone” of the big toe (the first metatarsal bone) which becomes exposed as the toe tilts out of place.
What problems does it cause?
The main problem is usually the pressure of the shoe over the bony prominence, which causes discomfort or pain. Sometimes the skin over the lump becomes red, blistered or infected. The foot may become so broad that it is difficult to get wide enough shoes.
The big toe sometimes tilts over so much that it rubs on the second toe, or pushes it out of place so it presses on the shoe. Also, the big toe does not work as well with a bunion, and the other toes have to take more of the weight of the body as you walk. This can cause pain under the ball of the foot (“metatarsalgia”). Sometimes arthritis develops in the deformed joint, causing pain in the joint.
Are bunions hereditary?
Bunions tend to run in families, but that does not mean that if you have a bunion, your children will inevitably have one too. The connection may be that bunions are more common in people with unusually flexible joints, and this can be hereditary. They are also more common in women than in men.
What about shoes?
Shoes which squeeze the big toe or do not fit properly, or have an excessively high heel, may worsen the deformity, particularly in people who are at higher risk anyway.