What are bunions?

A bunion, also called hallux valgus, is an enlarged, bony bump on the inner side of the joint at the base of the big toe.

Typically, a bunion is a result of a misaligned big toe joint and form on the joint. When you walk, the entire weight of the body rests on the bunion as you take a step which causes pain.

The condition develops slowly as the repetitive pressure from walking causes the big toe to turn inward toward the smaller toes. If not treated right away the deformity will increase in size and make it painful to walk.

Causes of bunions

Although the direct cause of bunions is unknown, contributing factors are:

  • Wearing shoes that are too tight or not supportive
  • Trauma to the foot at the big toe joint
  • Neuromuscular disorders (such as polio)

Risk factors for bunions

Women are much more likely to develop bunions than men because they are more likely to wear shoes that do not fit properly.

Other risk factors of bunions include:

  • Age — our feet spread out more as we age and this can put more stress on the foot
  • Heredity — people with a family history of bunions are more likely to also develop them
  • Overweight — people who are overweight put more pressure on the foot which can cause the bunion to develop

Symptoms of bunions

The most common symptom or sign of a bunion is a bump that bulges outward on the joint of the big toe.

Other symptoms of a bunion include:

  • Constant or occasional pain when walking or standing
  • Swelling or soreness around the joint in the big toe
  • Calluses or corns can develop where the first and second toes overlap

If your foot becomes so painful that you are not able to walk, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist or orthopedic physician immediately.

Diagnosis of bunions

Bunions are diagnosed in a physical exam by your primary care doctor, podiatrist or orthopedic physician.

In some cases, the physician will order an x-ray to determine if there is a severe deformity in the joint. Your physician may also draw blood to determine if you have arthritis in the impacted area.

Treatment for bunions

Bunions are not curable but can be corrected with surgery. Most patients can alleviate the pain from bunions by maintaining a healthy weight and wearing shoes that fit properly. Other treatments for bunions include:

  • Orthotics
  • Splint or brace

Surgery may be recommended when you have experienced foot pain for a year. Surgery can help patients avoid developing other related foot conditions such as hammer toes, mallet toe, bursitis.

Recovery from bunion surgery

Patients who have surgery to remove their bunions will need 6 to 8 weeks’ of recovery time but patients should not expect a full recovery for 4 - 6 months. It is important to follow your physician’s advice to get back to your daily activity as quickly as possible.

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