What is a bunion?
People think of a bunion as being as a bump on the side of the foot near the big toe. However, bunions go deeper than what we can see. Although the skin might be red, a bunion actually reflects a change in the anatomy of the foot.
Bunions happen over time. What begins as the big toe pointing toward the second toe ends up as changes in the actual alignment of the bones in the foot.
There is also a condition called tailor’s bunion or bunionette. This type of bump differs from a bunion in terms of the location. A tailor’s bunion is found near the base of the little toe on the outside of the foot.
What are the symptoms of bunions?
Many people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of bunion formation. Symptoms are often most noticeable when the bunion gets worse and with certain types of footwear. These include shoes that crowd the toes and/or high-heeled shoes. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Physical discomfort or pain
- A burning feeling
- Redness and swelling
- Possible numbness
- Difficulty walking
What causes bunions?
Bunions may be hereditary, as they often run in families. This suggests that people may inherit a faulty foot shape. In addition, footwear that does not fit properly may cause bunions. Bunions are made worse by tight, poorly-fitting, or too-small shoes. Bunions may also happen due to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Who gets bunions?
Anyone can get bunions, but they are more common in women. People with flat feet are also more likely to get bunions due to the changes in the foot caused by bunions.
There is also a condition called adolescent bunion, which tends to occur in 10-to-15-year old girls.
How are bunions diagnosed?
Generally, observation is adequate to diagnose a bunion, as the bump is obvious on the side of the foot or base of the big toe. However, your physician may order X-rays that will show the extent of the deformity of the foot.
How are bunions treated?
Non-surgical treatments for bunions may include:
- Wearing shoes that fit and that have adequate toe room.
- Stretching shoes professionally to make them larger.
- Putting bunion pads over the bunion to cushion the pain.
- Avoiding activities that cause pain, such as being on your feet for long periods of time.
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers when necessary, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen.
- Using ice to provide relief from inflammation and pain.
- Using custom-made orthotic devices.
Surgery might be recommended if non-surgical treatments fail to provide relief, and you are having trouble walking or are in extreme pain. Surgery can be used to return the big toe to its correct anatomical position. During surgery, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves are put back into correct order, and the bump is removed.
Many bunion correction procedures can be done on a same-day basis. The type of procedure will depend on your physical health, the extent of the foot deformity, your age, and your activity level. The recovery time will depend on which procedure or procedures are performed.
Surgery may be recommended to correct a tailor’s bunion, but is unlikely to be recommended for an adolescent bunion.
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