Hallux Valgus (Bunion)

Hallux valgus is the technical name for the big toe deformity caused by a bunion. A bunion is a lump arising at the big toe joint, and this causes the joint to inflame to an unnatural size, with the result of the big toe pointing outwards at the four other toes (hallux valgus). This can lead to pain and swelling, interfering with regular and sporting activities.


The most obvious symptom is the bunion itself, which is a fairly large bump extending outwards from the base of the big toe. It will feel bony to the touch. Its presence can push the big toe sideways towards the other toes. Pain will be present around the big toe joint and the bunion, which can become debilitating to the extent that it prevents successful walking. The pain is often accompanied by inflammation where the toe meets the foot. Skin around the bunion might become reddened or sore, and sometimes seems thicker than usual. Infection is a possibility. The problem may cause difficulty with wearing shoes, as the front of the foot can become considerably wider than most footwear is designed to accommodate.

Warning signs to look out for before the appearance of a bunion or hallux valgus include irritation, redness or swelling around the big toe joint. The area may become covered by calloused skin.


The causes of bunions and hallux valgus may vary, with a hereditary element regularly put forward as a contributing factor. Other pre-existing joint conditions have been related to the injury, especially rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, due to progressive weakening of the joint. This weakening is also present in people who wear inappropriate shoes; such people are prone to hallux valgus. In particular, ill-fitting or overly tight shoes can put you at risk, such as women's high heels or certain tense and rigid sports shoes. Shoes with narrow front ends are also damaging. All of the aforementioned shoes can lead to friction and strain on the big toe. The injury is also more prominent in people with biomechanical problems in their feet (such as flat feet).


A doctor will perform a physical examination and may use an x-ray to diagnose the condition or assess the extent of the damage. If the injury is particularly severe then medical intervention may be necessary. Bunionectomy surgery aims to remove a section of the bone in order to straighten the big toe, or use another method to correct the problem. However this is often considered most seriously if the condition is especially painful or debilitating. Non-surgical steps will be focused on using spacious shoes that provide sufficient comfort, and placing a healing device on the foot to amend the hallux valgus deformity. A relief pad might also be implemented. The doctor can prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling. In cases of biomechanical foot errors, shoe orthotics may be required.

Long-Term Effects

The non-surgical treatment is used only to relieve symptoms, and surgery may be necessary to remove the bunion for good. A doctor can discuss the merits and negatives of this course of action. Many people do not have surgery because their symptoms are sufficiently diminished without it.

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