Bunions are lumps or bumps that form on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe as a result of change in the big toe joint. Also called hallus valgus or hallus abducto valgus, bunions develop when the big toe is pushed inward toward the other toes, causing the big toe joint to slowly move out of alignment and bulge to the side, creating the bumpy appearance. Bunions progress over time, beginning as a mild inward leaning of the joint and becoming worse as the angle of the bones that comprise the joint are pushed farther out of alignment. Bunions can be quite painful, and they can also make it very difficult to find shoes that fit comfortably. Bunions usually form in people with specific foot shapes that make them more prone to the condition. Problems with gait mechanics and wearing toes that have restricted or cramped toe areas can also contribute to bunion formation.
Although people with very mild bunions may experience few symptoms, as the condition becomes worse, it can cause:
People who spend a considerable amount of time on their feet are more likely to have worse symptoms, and bunions also tend to be more common among women.
Bunions should be treated as early as possible to prevent the condition from becoming worse. In very mild cases and especially if the joint is still relatively flexible, changing footwear to include styles with more room in the toe area may be all that’s needed to prevent bunions from becoming worse. For moderate bunions, padding around the bunion can prevent painful friction, and custom orthotics may be recommended to help relieve pressure from the joint so the deformity doesn’t become worse. Oral pain medications, ice packs and injections of corticosteroids may be recommended as well. Less commonly, surgery may be recommended to move the joint back into its normal position. Several types of bunions surgery are available, and the technique will be selected based on the patient’s specific needs and the extent of the deformity.