What Is It?
A bunion is a firm, painful bump that forms at the base of the big toe. The big toe joint is enlarged and often has degenerative arthritis. In some cases, the toe also may be pushed toward the second toe (hallux valgus).
Bunions are often inherited, though they also are common in the following groups:
- Women who wear high heels
- People who wear shoes that are narrow or pointed
- People with flat feet
The dominant symptom of a bunion is a bulging bump on the outside of the base of the big toe. Other symptoms can include swelling, soreness and redness, a tough callus at the bottom of the big toe, or persistent or intermittent pain.
In most cases, a bunion can be diagnosed simply through an examination. A podiatrist will assess whether your range of motion is within normal function and look for signs of redness or swelling. In some cases, x-rays may be necessary to rule out other causes of pain, whether there is significant arthritis or to see if the bones are aligned properly.
A bunion can develop at any time in a child or adult. It will remain in place until it is treated.
Select your style and size of shoes wisely. Choose shoes with a wide toe area and at least a half-inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Shoes should conform to the shape of your feet without causing too much discomfort or pressure on any one given spot.
Treatment options are based on the severity of the deformity and symptoms. Nonsurgical treatments are often sufficient in relieving pain and pressure. To help resolve this issue without surgery, consider wearing roomy, comfortable shoes and use toe padding.
Depending on severity, treatment options may include a type of surgery called a bunionectomy to remove the bunion and reshape the first toe joint. The goal of the surgery is to correct the initial cause of the bunion and prevent reoccurrence.
For people with mild symptoms or for those cases where surgery is necessary, the outlook is excellent for long-term relief from discomfort and deformity. Some recovery time may be involved.