Hallux Valgus (Bunions)

Epidemiology

Hallux valgus, also known as a bunion, is a bothersome affliction and one of the most commonly seen foot problems. Approximately 90 percent of people with bunions are female. Studies have shown that about 30 percent of Asian women suffer from some degree of hallux valgus.

 

What is Hallux Valgus/a Bunion?

A bunion refers to a loosening or loss of stability at the first metatarsophalangeal joint (the big toe joint), which, when combined with pressure from walking, causes misalignment and deformity. Hallux valgus is determined to be present if the big toe is bent toward the second toe at over 15 degrees. If function of the big toe is impaired, the foot will adjust the gait to adapt, applying pressure on the second and third metatarsals and causing the patient to walk unnaturally or become more prone to falls. In addition, hallux valgus can also lead to other problems, such as calluses, claw toe, bunionettes, flat feet, and even pain in the calf and lower back.

Symptoms
Symptoms
  • Pain, tenderness
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Thickened skin on the soles of the feet
  • Calluses or corns on the lump outside the big toe
  • Big toe bending toward the second toe
  • Inability to bend or move the big toe, which may lead to difficulty walking
  • Pain in the calf
  • Lower back pain
Causes + Risk Factors
Causes + Risk Factors

According to a Hong Kong Baptist University study of over 1,000 Asian women, and the Framingham Foot Study conducted in the US of over 6,000 individuals, bunions are mainly linked to family history and female hormones.

 

Risk Factors

  • Female
  • Family history
Diagnosis + Treatment
Diagnosis + Treatment

Through clinical diagnosis and X-ray examination, the doctor will be able to determine whether the patient has hallux valgus, as well as the extent of metatarsal deformation.

 

Treatment

As bunions are caused by a loosening of ligaments, which lead to displacement of the bones, the goal of treatment is not only to realign the bones, but also to reconstruct a new ligament to stabilize the bones and prevent recurrence.

Conservative Treatment The best way to relieve pain caused by a bunion is to wear shoes made from soft materials, and with wide toe boxes and thick soles, such as sneakers or shoes with supportive insoles. However, this only serves to alleviate pain and does not actively treat the condition.

Traditional Surgery

Bunion surgery may be performed to correct the condition, but traditional surgery, which involves the breaking of bones, carries risk of complications and is not proven to fully restore big toe function.

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