Hallux valgus is the medical term for a bunion, which is a condition that causes the big toe to turn inward toward the pinky toe. Once the condition progresses, a bump (bunion) develops on the metatarsal bone, or inside of the foot around the big tone joint. The main cause of hallux valgus is shoes that do not fit correctly. According to the National Library of Medicine, 48 percent of the population suffers from the condition.
The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons cites a study that was done by the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society that stated 88 percent of women in the U.S. wear shoes too small and that 55 percent of those women have bunions. Although wearing shoes too small is the number-one cause of hallux valgus, heredity also plays a part. A person’s foot shape can make her more prone to the condition. Also, conditions such as arthritis and polio can cause bunions.
Symptoms associated with hallux valgus happen most often when a person is wearing shoes that are too small and when on his feet for long periods of time. Symptoms include pain or soreness, burning sensation, inflammation and redness. Some people also experience numbness.
Pain can be lessened in people with bunions by wearing properly fitting shoes. Buy shoes that fit the foot, not by size alone, and pick a shoe that follows the form of the foot as closely as possible. Get professional measurements of the feet and buy shoes to fit the bigger foot if they are not the same, and buy shoes at the end of the day when feet are the biggest because of swelling. Measure the space at the end of the big toes in shoes while standing and allow 3/8 to ½ inch for the longest toe, making sure the ball of the foot fits nicely in the widest part of the shoe and that the heel of the foot does not slip. Always walk in shoes before purchase to make sure they fit comfortably.
A diagnosis of hallux valgus is reached upon physical exam and inspection of the foot along with x-rays to determine the extent of damage to the bones. A foot and ankle surgeon takes x-rays to see if surgery is required to fix the damage or if wearing the correct shoes will suffice.
If a change in shoes does not work or the deformity is too bad, surgery is the next option for treatment of bunions. Whether the big toe has arthritis or not, the extent of deformity and the amount of space left between the first and second toes all help determine which of the various surgeries available to treat hallux valgus will work best for each individual.