New research has found that an increase in the severity of bunions not only increased foot pain and impaired mobility, but also affected people's general health and quality of life.
Bunion deformity was found in 36% of the study sample. It occurred more frequently in women and older individuals. The study also found that pain in other parts of the body beyond the foot was associated with increased bunion severity.
Associate Professor Hylton Menz of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues at the Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Keele University examined the prevalence of and factors associated with hallux valgus – bunions.
The Medical Research Council funded study assessed the severity of deformity on general and foot-specific Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) of 2,831 people aged 56 years or older in North Staffordshire.
The research team established five severity grades of hallux valgus, corresponding to the angle of deformity - from 0, 15, 30, 45, and 60 degrees.
Results showed that the impact of increasing hallux valgus severity on HRQOL is independent of age, sex, education, body mass index, and pain in other parts of the body.
They also revealed that impact of bunion extends beyond pain and physical function to affect general health, vitality, social function, and mental health.
"Our findings indicate that hallux valgus is a significant and disabling musculoskeletal condition that affects overall quality of life," concluded Associate Professor Menz.
"Interventions to correct or slow the progression of the deformity offer patients beneficial outcomes beyond merely localised pain relief."
Hallux valgus is a common foot condition that is caused when the big toe bends in towards the smaller toes. It develops over time and is accompanied by a painful soft tissue and bony protrusion, known as a bunion.
As the deformity progresses the lateral displacement of the hallux (big toe) begins to interfere with normal alignment and function of the smaller toes, leading to further deformities such as hammer toe or claw toe, altered weight-bearing patterns, and the development of corns and calluses.
Family history, wearing high-heeled shoes or shoes that are too narrow, and flat footedness have all been suggested to contribute to the development of bunions.
Details of this UK population-based study appear in the March issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).