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What Is Hallux Valgus and What Can Be Done About It?

What Is Hallux Valgus and What Can Be Done About It?

Hallux valgus, a common deformity of the foot, is associated with the formation of bunions.

What is hallux valgus?

Hallux valgus is a deviation in the shape of the big toe that can lead to bunion formation.

Diagram 1:

  • A toe is composed of 3 phalanges (or bones), except for the big toe, which has only two.
  • Normally, the phalanges are in strict alignment with the first metatarsal, a large bone in the forefoot.
  • In the case of hallux valgus, an angle is formed, the toe becomes deviated and the foot becomes deformed.

Hallux valgus

What causes bunions?

  • There are many factors that may cause the appearance of a bunion.
  • There may be a genetic predisposition to hallux valgus.
  • The shape of the foot plays a role. The “Greek Foot", the name given to a foot whose big toe is shorter than the second toe, is most often affected. A wide forefoot or flat foot can also contribute to this condition.
  • The wearing of high heels, an excess of weight, and/or shoes that are too narrow have also been implicated in the appearance of this foot deformity.
  • Finally, it seems that hallux valgus becomes more frequent after menopause, a period when the tissues are relaxing, favouring the widening of the foot.

How can it be treated?

  • Wearing orthopaedic insoles can improve the posture of the foot and reduce the effect of this deformity. Foot care by a podiatrist can also be helpful.

Unfortunately, no device can effectively straighten a hallux valgus.

Is there a role for surgery?

  • When putting on shoes becomes too difficult or when the pain becomes debilitating and arthritis sets in at the joint, surgical treatment may be contemplated.
  • Current surgical techniques quite reliably correct the problem.
  • Following surgery, a period of physiotherapy is required. It will take 4-6 weeks for the bones to heal and be able to support weight, although walking is possible with the help of a special shoe before that.
  • If both feet are affected, it is advised that patients wait a few months between the two operations.

The conservative treatment of hallux valgus and bunions may include the wearing of special insoles called ‘plantar orthotic devices’ and pedicure treatments before considering surgical treatment.

 Surgery is the only treatment that can straighten the deformity and advances in surgical methodology have simplified the techniques making them less painful and more reliable than they have been in the past.

Publication date:   5/12/10

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Dr Lawahd Hassan

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