Bunions

A bunion occurs when the big toe points toward the second toe, forming a bump on the inner side of the foot.

Bunions are usually caused by prolonged pressure put on the feet that compresses the big toe and pushes it toward the second toe. Over time, the condition may become painful as extra bone grows where the base of the big toe meets the foot.

Avoid compressing the toes of your foot with narrow, poor-fitting shoes.

Bunions are more common in women than men. The problem can run in families. People born with abnormal bones in their feet are more likely to form a bunion.

Wearing narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes may lead to the development of a bunion.

The condition may become painful as the bump gets worse. Extra bone and a fluid-filled sac grow at the base of the big toe.

Symptoms may include:
  • Red, thickened skin along the inside edge at the base of the big toe.
  • A bony bump at the first toe joint, with decreased movement in the toe site.
  • Pain over the joint, which pressure from shoes makes worse.
  • Big toe turned toward the other toes and may cross over the second toe. Corns and calluses develop as a result where the first and second toes overlap.
  • Difficulty wearing regular shoes.

You may have problems finding shoes that fit or that do not cause pain.

A health care provider can very often diagnose a bunion by looking at it. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen.

When a bunion first begins to develop, take good care of your feet.

  • Wear wide-toed shoes. This can often solve the problem and prevent you from needing more treatment.
  • Wear felt or foam pads on your foot to protect the bunion, or devices called spacers to separate the first and second toes. These are available at drugstores.
  • Try cutting a hole in a pair of old, comfortable shoes to wear around the house.

If the bunion gets worse and more painful, surgery may help. The surgery bunionectomy realigns the toe and removes the bony bump. There are more than 100 different surgeries to treat this condition.

You can keep a bunion from worsening by taking care of it. Try to wear different shoes when it first starts to develop.

Teenagers may have more trouble treating a bunion than adults. This may be the result of an underlying bone problem.

Surgery reduces the pain in many, but not all people with bunions. After surgery, you may not be able to wear tight or fashionable shoes.