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Bunions

Information About Causes and Treatment of Bunions

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Updated May 16, 2014

Bunions are a common problem that most people experience as a bony protuberance at the base of the big toe. A bunion, however, is more complicated than simply a bump on the foot.

When a patient has a bunion, the big toe angles in toward the other toes, a condition called hallux valgus. Bunions are most common in women, and the cause is most often unsuitable footwear.

Bunions Defined

bunion toe deformity treatment
Photo © www.iStockPhoto.com
A bunion is a prominence on the inner side of the foot at the base of the big toe. The bunion usually forms because of a with the alignment of the bones of the forefoot. This causes pressure and prominence of the base of the big toe. Irritation of the soft tissues surrounding this part of the foot causes further swelling and pain.

Causes of Bunions

bunions shoes cause
Jonathan Cluett, MD
Bunions are a common problem that can cause foot pain and difficulty wearing shoes. Bunions occur in about 30% of the population of most Western countries. They are seen most commonly in women and become more common as people get older.

Bunion Pain

Patients with bunions generally have one of two problems that can cause pain:
  • Pain over the bunion
    As the big toe becomes more and more angled (pointing toward the other toes), the base of the toe becomes more and more prominent, forming the bunion. The bunion forms in part because of the new angle of the toe, and in part due to inflammation over the bunion surface. As the inflammation worsens, people can experience pain with shoe wear and walking.

  • Development of a hammer toe
    The big toe may eventually come to lie over, or more commonly under, the second toe. This may cause further irritation while wearing shoes and more pain. The second toe of patients who have bunions commonly forms a hammer toe.

Non-Surgical Bunion Treatments

Bunion treatment should always start with changing footwear to relieve symptoms and to prevent the bunion from progressing. Shoes with a wide toe-box, minimal slope, and good arch support can help relieve the bunion pain. Some people find that ice application and anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve the inflammation around the bunion. This video explains more.

Determining When Surgery Is Needed

Bunions can cause pain and difficulty wearing certain shoes. When simple treatments don't relieve your symptoms, surgery may be considered for treatment of the bunion. What are the signs that surgery may be the right treatment for your bunion?

Bunion Surgery

bunion surgery scar
Photo © bojan fatur
When bunions cause pain and inflammation, and simple treatment is not effective for relief of symptoms, a surgical procedure may be recommended. The surgery performed for the treatment of a bunion is aimed at realigning the broken bone so the bunion will not return.

Preventing Bunions

The most helpful thing you can do to prevent the formation and the progression of bunions is choose proper footwear. Here are some ideas for what you can do when buying and wearing shoes to prevent the progression of bunions.
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