A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. It occurs when some of the bones in the front part of your foot move out of place. This causes the tip of your big toe to get pulled toward the smaller toes and forces the joint at the base of your big toe to stick out. The skin over the bunion might be red and sore.
Wearing tight, narrow shoes might cause bunions or make them worse. Bunions can also develop as a result of the shape of your foot, a foot deformity or a medical condition, such as arthritis.
Smaller bunions (bunionettes) can develop on the joint of your little toe.
The signs and symptoms of a bunion include:
Although bunions often require no medical treatment, see your doctor or a doctor who specializes in treating foot disorders (podiatrist or orthopedic foot specialist) if you have:
There are many theories about how bunions develop, but the exact cause is unknown. Factors likely include:
Experts disagree on whether tight, high-heeled or too-narrow shoes cause bunions or whether footwear simply contributes to the development of bunions.
Bunions might be associated with certain types of arthritis, particularly inflammatory types, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
These factors might increase your risk of bunions:
Possible complications of bunions include:
To help prevent bunions, choose shoes carefully. They should have a wide toe box — no pointy toes — and there should be space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
Your shoes should conform to the shape of your feet without squeezing or pressing any part of your foot.
Your doctor can identify a bunion by examining your foot. After the physical exam, an X-ray of your foot can help your doctor determine the best way to treat it.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of your bunion and how much pain it causes.
Nonsurgical treatments that may relieve the pain and pressure of a bunion include:
If conservative treatment doesn't relieve your symptoms, you might need surgery. Surgery is not recommended for cosmetic reasons; only when a bunion causes you frequent pain or interferes with your daily activities.
There are many surgical procedures for bunions, and no one technique is best for every problem.
Surgical procedures for bunions can be done as single procedures or in combination. They might involve:
It's possible that you'll be able to walk on your foot right after a bunion procedure. However, full recovery can take weeks to months.
To prevent a recurrence, you'll need to wear proper shoes after recovery. For most people, it's unrealistic to expect to wear narrower shoes after surgery.
Talk to your doctor about what you can expect after bunion surgery.
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor or a foot specialist (podiatrist or orthopedic foot specialist).
To make the most of your time with your doctor, prepare a list of questions before your visit. Your questions might include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions.
Some questions your doctor might ask include:
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