A bunion looks like a bump on the side of the
big toe. This bump is actually the result of an abnormality of the foot bones
in which your big toe leans toward your second toe instead of being straight.
This angle produces the bump you see on your toe.
In some cases, the bump is painless. Over
time, however, a bunion will cause the toes to crowd together. This can result
in pain and the possibility of permanent deformity.
What Causes Bunions?
Bunions are generally thought to be genetic.
They occur because of faulty foot structure, which is inherited. Some
conditions that contribute to the development of bunions include flat feet,
excessively flexible ligaments, and abnormal bone structure. Some experts
believe shoes that don’t fit properly cause bunions, but others think shoes
only worsen an existing structure problem.
Bunions usually become worse over time. They
can be aggravated by:
- tight or too small shoes that cause
your toes to crowd together and put pressure on your big toe
- shoes that have high heels or
pointy toes — these styles force your toes together
- standing for long periods of time
- arthritis symptoms in your feet
What Are the Symptoms of Bunions?
In addition to the bump, signs and symptoms of
a bunion may include:
- red and inflamed skin on the side
of your big toe
- your big toe turns toward your
- thick skin on the underside of
your big toe
- calluses on your second toe
- foot pain that may be persistent
or come and go
- difficulty moving your big toe
The pain associated with a bunion might make
it difficult to walk. See your doctor if you experience:
- persistent foot pain
- inability to find shoes that fit
- decreased flexibility in your big
- a large lump on or near the joint
on your big toe
How Are Bunions Diagnosed?
In most cases, a doctor can diagnose a bunion
through visible inspection since many of the signs are outwardly present.
During a physical exam, your doctor may ask you to move your toe back and forth
to check for limited movement. Your doctor will order an X-ray if they suspect
an injury or deformity. An X-ray can detail the severity of the bunion and
pinpoint its cause. A blood test might also be necessary to rule out arthritis
as a cause.
How Are Bunions Treated?
There are surgical and nonsurgical treatment
options for your bunion.
- wearing shoes that contain padded
soles and include adequate wiggle room for your toes
- having your physician pad or tape
your foot into a normal position, which reduces pressure on the bunion
- taking over-the-counter pain
relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen
- wearing over-the-counter arch
supports in your shoes
Surgery might be necessary if nonsurgical
options don’t help you. Many surgical procedures are used to treat bunions.
Your doctor will recommend the best procedure for your situation. However, most
surgeries to correct bunions include a bunionectomy.
A bunionectomy involves:
- correcting the position of the
big toe by removing some of the bone
- removing swollen tissue from the
Full recovery from a bunionectomy can take up
to eight weeks. In most cases, you’ll be able to walk on your foot immediately
following the procedure.
Complications from Bunions
An untreated bunion can cause irritation to
the fluid-filled sac that cushions the joint, called the bursa. This causes the
bursa to become inflamed and swollen, which causes pain and tenderness and may
lead to limited movement of the other joints in the toe. This condition is
Other possible complications of bunions
- toe or foot deformity
- stiff toe
- chronic toe or foot pain
Contact your doctor immediately if you
experience these symptoms and also have diabetes or any signs of infection.
Outlook and Prevention
There are many surgical and nonsurgical
treatments available for bunions. Contact your doctor if a bunion is making it
difficult to walk or put your shoes on.
Wearing shoes that fit properly is an
effective way to stop bunions from forming. A properly fitting shoe should have
plenty of room around your toes and should conform to the shape of your foot.