Bunions

Bunions at a glance

  • A bunion is an abnormal enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe, characterized by a painful, bony bump. The affected toe is often curved outward, moving the bones of the feet out of alignment and crowding the other toes.
  • Wearing high-heeled or ill-fitting shoes can cause a bunion to develop, as well as inherited foot type and congenital deformities.
  • Bunions can also be associated with arthritis.
  • Bunions can be identified by a large, protruding bump that forms on the outside of the big toe joint. Swelling, redness, and pain are other common symptoms.
  • Treatment for bunions includes a change in footwear and over-the-counter medications. Talk to your pharmacist before purchasing anti-inflammatories as these medications may be contraindicated as they may interact with other medications and medical conditions.

Causes of bunions

Wearing shoes that are too tight or have high heels is the most common cause of bunions. The stress of shifting body weight puts uneven pressure on the joints and tendons in the feet, and the big toe joint is eventually molded into a painful, bony knob that extends beyond the foot.

Bunions can also develop as a result of working in a career that puts extensive stress on the feet or that requires narrow shoes. Some forms of arthritis may also lead to bunions, since the disease causes the deterioration of protective cartilage around joints.

Symptoms of bunions

The primary symptom of a bunion is a large bump on the outside of the base of the big toe joint. This area may display swelling or redness, or have thickened skin. Pain or soreness around the big toe joint is also common, and may be severe enough to make walking uncomfortable.

The bunion pushes the big toe towards the smaller toes, crowding them and causing corns or calluses to develop. In time, the four smaller toes may be forced out of alignment and can develop a condition called hammertoe.

Treatment for bunions

Wearing comfortable, properly fitted shoes that leave ample space for the toes usually reduces the discomfort associated with bunions. Shoe inserts or arch supports may prevent the bunion from worsening, and can evenly distribute pressure to the feet.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage the pain as well.

Surgical options for bunions

If bunion pain begins to interfere with daily activities, orthopedic surgery may be necessary. It is essential to know the cause of the bunion in order to determine which surgical procedure will provide relief without the bunion returning after surgery.

A bunionectomy involves removing the swollen tissue and part of the bone from the big toe joint, and straightening the abnormal angle of the big toe and the big toe joint. While it may be possible to walk following the surgery, with some procedures full recovery can take up to eight weeks. To prevent the bunion from returning, proper shoes must be worn after surgery.

If you are experiencing bunion pain that is effecting your daily life, contact us to request an appointment with one of our foot and ankle orthopedic specialists.