A bunion is another name for a valgus malformation of the great toe. It is a very common condition of unknown etiology that can be both painful and debilitating. To better understand the nature of a bunion, it is useful to have some understanding of the anatomy of the foot. Convention dictates the numbering of your toes from one (the great toe) to five (the little toe.) The great toe has two bones called phalanges, and the joint between the phalanges is held in place by tissues called tendons and ligaments. A small artery, the digital artery, and the digital nerve pass along each side of the toe.

A hallux valgus deformity, or bunion, is a lateral deviation of the great toe on the first bone of the foot, the first metatarsal. This deviation sometimes involves a rotation of the toe that can cause the toenail to face medially, or inward. The angle of the joint is not well stabilized, and any force that pushes the nearest phalanx to the side of the foot can create a valgus deformity or bunion. If these bones and joints remain under constant stress, the medial ligament and joint capsule will eventually rupture and cause a deformed joint. Without medical stabilization, the lateral side of the toe, the joint capsule and ligaments, act without opposition and the deformity becomes worse.

Doctors estimate that between 4 and 44 percent of women and 2 and 22 percent of men have this deformity. The variation in numbers depends upon the way the deformity is measured and how the study population is selected. Barefoot populations have a higher prevalence.

The cause of the deformity is not precisely understood, but it is probably due to several factors that include abnormal foot mechanics, abnormal bone alignment, hypermobility of the joint, and genetic influences. People with inflammatory joint disease are frequently affected.

The diagnosis and treatment of bunions is best left to a professional. Experienced podiatrists, like Dr. Brendan McConnell and Dr. Nelson Keller, can accurately diagnose, stage and treat deformities of the foot. If you are suffering from a bunion, you should get prompt medical attention from a specialist. You can call the offices of Drs. McConnell and Keller for your appointment today.