We often have patients come to see us about their bunion when in reality they have an arthritic joint. Yes, it can be easy to confuse the two because they can give a look alike, but they are very different.
Let’s say you are looking at your foot. And there below your big toe there is a protrusion. I mean a bump, there below your big toe on the side of your foot.
Here is the thing. That bump on your foot might be a bunion, but it might not. That’s right. A bunion is what we all think when we see a bump under our big toe, but it could be something else. That bump could actually be an arthritic toe joint.
A bunion is caused by a misalignment of the bones in your foot. This can happen as a result of wearing footwear that does not fit correctly or it could be that you inherited a bone structure that lends itself to the formation of a bunion. A bunion can be painful, and size is not an indicator of pain. Some people will have a very painful small bunion while others can have a large misalignment that is not painful. Part of the pain with a bunion is from the bunion rubbing against shoes.
Arthritis in the joint in your big toe can also cause a bump at the base of the big toe. You can develop arthritis in your toe joint for a number of reasons. Like bunions, part of the reason can be the alignment of the bones in your foot. Arthritis can also form at the base of your toe because of an injury to the area. Athletes that suffer from repeated episodes of turf toe can develop arthritis at the base of the big toe. The arthritis in your big toe can lead to Hallux Limitus. Hallux Limitus is not a spell cast by Harry Potter. Hallux (big toe in Latin) Limitus refers to a condition where the range of motion in the big toe is reduced and is painful. As Hallux Limitus progresses, the range of motion will decrease until you move into Hallux Rigidus, a condition where your big toe cannot move. Over time, you will feel pain from your toe all the time – not just when wearing shoes or walking.
How can you tell the difference? You need to pay a visit to your friendly local podiatrist to really find out which condition has affected your foot. The doctor can have you get an x-ray of your foot and it will be evident on the x-ray. After the x-ray and the diagnosis, you and the doctor can determine the right course of action for you.
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