A bunion is a bony, often painful bump that develops at the base of the big toe. Also known as hallux valgus, bunions often develop slowly.

What causes bunions?

Bunions develop when the bones that make up the metatarsophalangeal joint or MTP (the largest joint of the big toe) move out of alignment.

There are several theories on how bunions develop but the exact cause is still unknown. There are some factors though that can increase one’s risk of developing bunions. These include having an inherited foot type, congenital foot deformities, and foot injuries.

In some cases, bunions are associated with certain types of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of bunions include a bulging bump on the outside of the base of the big toe, pain or soreness around the big toe joint, a burning sensation, inflammation, redness, and in some cases, numbness.

Corns or calluses may develop with bunions especially when the first and second toes overlap.

When to See a Doctor

In many cases, bunions don’t require medical treatment. However, seeing a doctor is advised if there is persistent pain on the big toe, a visible bump on the big toe joint, difficulty walking in flat shoes, and a decreased in the movement of the big toe or the foot.

Bunions can be easily detected through one’s medical history and physical assessment. To confirm the diagnosis and determine the degree of deformity, the doctor may order an X-ray.

Since the alignment of the bones changes with one’s position, the doctor will take an X-ray while the patient is standing. This provides better images on the misalignment of the bones on the foot.

Managing Bunions

Nonsurgical Treatment

Most cases of bunions can be managed through different nonsurgical methods. While they can help alleviate the pain, these methods cannot reverse the deformity itself.

Wearing the right kind of shoes, applying pads over the area of the bunion, application of cold compress, and taking of oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are just some of the ways to manage the discomfort associated with bunions.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is only recommended if pain persists even with nonsurgical treatments and when the pain interferes with day-to-day activities.

Surgical treatment for bunions usually involves removal of the bump in the bone and correcting the changes in the bony structure as well as changes in the soft tissues. The goal of these surgeries is to reduce the pain and deformity.