A bunion is a prominence to the inner side of the big toe. This is actually formed by the big toe joint drifting to one side and is not extra bone being formed. As the bunion progresses, the big toe itself starts to drift towards its neighbouring toes and can cause the second toe to become deformed as space it occupies becomes too crowded.
It occurs more commonly in females and a lot of people find that relatives are also affected.
It can be completely symptom free and not cause any problems in which case no treatment is necessary. When it does cause problems people mainly report pain and rubbing when wearing shoes. When the second toe becomes deformed it can become more prominent and rub against shoes. You may feel discomfort underneath the second toe.
You may well have tried various types of shoes in order to feel more comfortable. This is entirely appropriate and is the ‘first-line’ of treatment. Some people try splints in order to help keep the big toe straight.
Surgery to treat a bunion is aimed at helping treat the pain from the prominence itself, skin problems caused by rubbing and second toe problems related to the bunion. Surgery is not recommended as a cosmetic procedure (if you don’t like the look of your big toe with a bunion, you probably won’t like the look of it being slightly straighter but with a scar!). Surgery involves cutting the bone in order to move it back into position and holding it in place with special screws and staples.
Surgery is usually carried out under a general anaesthetic (with you asleep) and in most cases you will go home the same day. You will be able to walk straight away and will be given a stiff soled sandal to wear over the bandages. You will be encouraged to rest as much as possible for the first two weeks in order to allow the wound to heal before the stitches are removed. You will be able to start using your own shoes at around six weeks post surgery. Swelling is common and can last for a few months in some cases.
The bunion deformity can come back again even after surgery. It is uncommon for this to cause as many problems as the original one and therefore the need for further surgery is low.