Types of Bunions

Different types of bunions

The joint that connects the big toe to the foot can often develop a deformity which is known in the medical literature as a bunion. Some of these can turn out to be very painful, and if they get large enough and bother the patient enough, then it can be necessary to have surgery which removes the bunion and attempts to lessen some of the complications. These bunions come in a few different types as well as being graded based on severity.

Many pictures have been taken of these various types which can give an idea as to what to expect.

Severity grades for bunions

There are two angles in the foot which are used for grading purposes. The first of these is called the hallux valgus angle or HVA. The toe of the big bone which is proximal (closest to the foot bones, aka proximal phalanx) forms an angle with the first metatarsal bone and this is considered a mild bunion at between 15 and 20 degrees. 21 to 39 degrees is moderate, and anything more than that is severe.

The second angle is called the intermetatarsal angle or IMA, and it is between the first and second metatarsals (foot bones). At between 9 and 11 degrees it is mild, and 12 to 17 is moderate. Anything more is a severe classification.

Bunion with skin irritation

As these angles get greater, there is likely to be more problems, such as skin irritation. When the sufferer puts on a shoe the bunion will rub against the side causing this irritation. It can get red and painful, and inflammation can make this even more of a problem. Bursitis will appear in some cases, and this is where a pocket of fluid wraps itself over the bunion.

Many times, these can be the mildest of cases and will not require too much in the way of treatment.

Bunion with Hallux Limitus

This type of bunion can often be smaller than a lot of its counterparts. The HVA and IMA angles will be smaller, but there is a complication which means it limits the mobility of the sufferer's foot. This is known as Hallux Limitus, which actually means stiff toe joint, and that is precisely what it is. There will be a limited range of movement that the big toe is capable of as well as complementary pain.

If not treated, the bunion with Hallux Limitus can eventually lead to a manifestation of arthritis later in life.

Tailor's bunion

The Tailor's Bunion is going to affect the little toe rather than the big toe. It is similar to a regular bunion, but because of the toe difference it is also known as a bunionette. It takes its name from the fact there was a time in history where the work of tailors required them to sit cross-legged, and this caused the toe to rub the ground.

However, it can be seen in anyone nowadays, so there are other reasons for its cause. There will generally be a similar amount of pain, swelling, and inflammation as with regular bunions.

Conclusion

There is still some mystery to the exact cause of bunions and bunionettes. There are many who see tight fitting shoes as the main culprit, and in any case, ill-fitting shoes can certainly exacerbate the issue. Others see bunions as likely to be passed on from generation to generation through the magic of genetics. It is probably not going to matter much to the patient as to what the exact cause is, but he or she is going to want some treatment to relieve their plight.

Thankfully, there have been many advances in the area of orthotics, so now there is an assortment of things from gelled toe spacers to bunion splints and cushions which can be prescribed to help. Also, there has been progress in the surgical treatments so that now it is possible for the worst cases to be assigned to surgery in order to get them back to normal functioning.

For new sufferers, there are some tips which can help lessen the complications as well.

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Last Reviewed:
June 20, 2017
Last Updated:
October 11, 2017
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