Published: Nov. 11, 2010
Updated: Dec. 29, 2010
A bunion is an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the base of the big toe.
The enlargement, due to additional bone or tissue formation, is often combined with a misalignment of the big toe. The normal, straight forward position of the big toe becomes directed outward, toward the smaller toes.
A bunion usually forms because of misalignment of the bones in the front of the foot. This causes pressure, which leads to enlargement of the base of the big toe.
Bunions occur more commonly in women and can sometimes run in families. People born with abnormal bones in their feet are more likely to form a bunion.
Wearing narrow, tight, or high-heeled shoes commonly leads to the development of a bunion. Ballet dancers commonly have bunions or hammer toe due to their restrictive footwear.
Bunions are characterized by:
A physical examination by your doctor, with focus on the foot's structure, will determine if you have have a bunion. Often x-ray imaging is used to rule out underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout.
Treatment begins with new shoes -- shoes with soft, spacious, wide toe boxes. Avoid tight, narrow, or high-heeled shoes.
Orthotics, such as shoe inserts, may offer your feet padding and shielding that will help relieve symptoms. Rest, applying cold compresses to the bunion, and anti-inflammation medicines -- such as aspirin or ibuprofen -- may also help relieve pain and inflammation.
In severe cases, a surgical procedure may be considered. Surgical procedures can correct the deformity and relieve pain, which then leads to improved function. These procedures typically involve removing the bony enlargement of the bunion while realigning the big toe.
Watch an educational video about bunion treatments.