A bunion is a deformity of the big toe joint that results from bone misalignment or repositioning at the joint. Although bunions occur most frequently at the base of the big toe, they can also arise on the outside of the foot at the base of the small toe.
When the joint at the base of the big toe becomes enlarged, friction and pressure are created as it painfully rubs against footwear. Eventually, the big toe may press inward against the smaller toes, even overlapping as far as the third toe in some cases, a condition called hallux valgus. With some bunions, the big toe also rotates or twists inward, which is called hallux abducto valgus.
What Are Risk Factors that Can Cause Bunions?
- Overpronation, flat feet, or other neuromuscular problems that affect the feet
- Tight-fitting, narrow-toed, or high-heeled footwear
- Recurring stress to the foot
- Previous foot injuries
- Congenital defects
What Are Symptoms of Bunions?
- Chronic pain and discomfort when walking, especially as the bunion becomes larger and rubs against footwear
- Swelling, redness, and tenderness at the site
- Thickened skin on the bottom of the affected area
How Are Bunions Treated?
- Apply ice
- Rest the area and avoid motions that apply pressure to the affected joint
- Wear loose-fitting, non-constricting footwear that does not put pressure on the bunion
- Insert orthotics into footwear to provide stability and correct positioning
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications on a temporary basis for pain and inflammation (ask your doctor first)
- Stretch the area with specific exercises to keep the joint mobile
- Splint the area during sleep to encourage proper joint alignment, which is preferred for younger people suffering from bunions because their bones are still developing
- Receive a cortisone injection to reduce joint inflammation
- Remove corns or calluses
- Have a bunionectomy, or surgery to remove the bunion and realign the toe, if necessary
Untreated bunions can also lead to other toe deformities, such as hammertoe. Arthritis and bursitis may also develop in the joint area.
How Can Bunions Be Prevented?
- Wear properly fitting, supportive footwear or custom orthopedics
- Seek early, correct diagnosis and treatment to slow or stop bunion development