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hallux valgus

What is Hallux Valgus?

Hallux valgus is the deformity of the joint connecting the big toe to the foot. When your big toe drifts outward and crowds the other smaller toes in their space, there is an onset of Hallux valgus. However, the growth of this condition is gradual and slow.

Furthermore, the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint connecting the foot’s metatarsals to the big toe’s phalanx will lose its alignment and bulge out. It, therefore, pushes the big toe outward. This deformity will affect the aesthetic and walking posture of affected patients. 

Hallux Valgus can become inflamed and infected. Severe pain and swelling are a few symptoms of this condition. Scientists also claim that this condition often affects females more and they undergo reconstructive surgery. However, arthritis and bursitis are significant complications of this condition. You should also know that the prevalence of Hallux Valgus increases with age.

What causes Hallux Valgus?

Generally, the pressure from how you walk or the shape of your foot may cause your big toe to twist inward to the second toe. Although, some predisposing factors can put you at risk of developing this condition.  However, not everyone exposed to these risk factors eventually has Hallux valgus. 

Some risk factors for developing this condition are:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop Hallux Valgus. Scientific evidence suggests that it is ten times more frequent in women.
  • Tight-fitted and high heel shoes: Tightly fitted shoes and high heel shoes can cramp the toes together. They put pressure on the big toes. Sometimes, wearing tight-fitted shoes frequently in your early twenties (20s) can predispose you to Hallux valgus later in life.
  • Congenital deformity: A family history of Hallux valgus is a predisposing factor to this toe joint deformity. Some people are born with some of these deformities. Hallux valgus is hereditary.
  • Severe flatfoot: The arches of the foot are lost, and the whole foot is on the ground. This exposes the joint of the big toe and puts more pressure on the metatarsophalangeal joint.
  • Chronic Achilles tightness: Overusing the Achilles tendon close to the heel can affect the heel when walking. This affects the foot’s movement ─ allowing undue pressure on the toes, especially the big ones.

Other causes may include hypermobility of the first metatarsocuneiform joints, systemic diseases, and excessive foot pronation.  

What is the difference between a Bunion and Hallux Valgus?

Generally, health practitioners sometimes refer to bunions as Hallux Valgus. Doctors often use the word bunion to describe bone deformities at the base of the big toe with swellings and a bump. In simple terms, medical terminologies may seem confusing, but Hallux Valgus is bunion’s medical term. Bunions are lumps at the base of big toes with deformity. Sometimes health practitioners refer to them as an inflamed bursa. Bunions might be painful often, but not in all cases.

Furthermore, your doctor or healthcare provider can diagnose this condition accurately by physically assessing or looking at your foot. On the other hand, you may require a simple X-ray for the diagnosis. Frequently, Osteoarthritis is a complication that can accompany bunions, and the joint cartilage and bones may degenerate due to this deformity.

Is Hallux Valgus congenital?

Generally, this is a condition that is hereditary and is often familial. However, congenital Hallux valgus is rare and uncommon. However, it is safe to say that you can inherit this condition from birth. But it is more common to get it from the predisposing factors discussed above.

How do I fix Hallux valgus without surgery?

There are various treatment options for fixing Hallux Valgus. Generally, surgical procedure is high on the list (we’ll discuss this later). But, you can also consider some of these options, which include;

  • Using pain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen can help relieve pain.
  • Ice and a lot of rest are also forms of treatment. 
  • Changes in footwear are also a way of fixing bunions.

But there’s a conservative way of treatment I’d like to discuss with you. 

  •  Orthotics: Orthotics is a medical specialty that deals with aligning and straightening things. The main focus is to apply “orthoses” – a piece of medical equipment ─ to influence the functional and structural features of the neuromuscular and skeletal systems. However, doctors can make custom-made orthoses for specific people. Orthotics are a great way of fixing Hallux valgus, and there is little evidence that it repairs physical deformity.

How do I repair Hallux Valgus?

Generally, surgical procedure is the preferred way of repairing Hallux valgus by doctors. Orthopedics perform surgeries to repair and fix this condition permanently. But, there are a few indications to be considered for surgery. If you see these signs, you’re a good fit for surgery.

  • The bunions on your toe become painful to touch and pressure other toes when you wear a shoe.
  • The crowded toes cause other foot and toe deformities.
  • Pain in the foot’s arch when walking because the pressure on the big toe is causing pain.
  • If you experience arthritic pain from the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, surgery is best for fixing this condition. 

The goals of the surgery will be to;

  • Straighten the big toe
  • Correct the deformed toes that have been pushed aside by the big toe
  • Help remove the swollen ball from your foot.

However, you’ll need to book an appointment with your doctor to repair your Hallux valgus. You should see your doctor immediately when you see signs of a lump at the base of the big toe. 

Doctors will carry out a few surgical procedures to fix this condition. Some of them combine more than one procedure which includes;

  • Repositioning of the bone (osteotomy): The bones of the big toe and other toes must be repositioned and realigned.
  • Tendon correction: Tendons surrounding the bones and joints must be repaired because Hallux valgus affects the length of the tendons of the big toe. Your orthopedic will repair the tendon to avoid pulling on the big toe again.
  • Treating the metatarsophalangeal joint: This joint is the most affected in Hallux valgus. Also, there may be an inflammation in the joint due to bunion. However, the joint is rejoined, and bone spurs (extra bones) are removed.
  • Other procedures correct the first metatarsal bone, strengthen the great toe, reposition the sesamoid bones beneath the first metatarsal bone, e.t.c.

When should I seek medical attention?

You should reach out to your doctor immediately when you experience the following;

  • Inability to move your big toe.
  • Severe pain while walking.
  • Acute inflammation on your toe.
  • Infection after surgical procedure.

Conclusion

Hallux Valgus is the most familiar type of adult foot deformity. It affects the base of the great toe and makes it bulge out. The metatarsophalangeal joint at this base is usually the culprit. It is worth of note that women are more likely to develop this condition than men. However, be sure you can fix it with the help of your health provider. Finally, after the surgery, you will require your doctor’s guidance before you continue wearing all kinds of shoes, which can expose you to the risk of other joint damage.