Bunions: Causes, Treatment, & Removal

A bunion is a common, sometimes painful deformity that most often affects the big toe. However, you may also develop a smaller bunion, known as a bunionette, at the joint of your pinky toe. Doctors still don’t know exactly what causes bunions.

Man foot with bunion

What Is a Bunion?

A bunion is a bulging, bony bump at the joint where your big toe and foot meet. This bump causes your big toe to point inward, toward the other toes, rather than straight ahead. Over time, the bunion usually becomes more pronounced, which is one reason some doctors believe ill-fitting shoes cause or at least exacerbate the condition.

Symptoms of Bunions

The main symptom of bunions is the large lump at the base of the big toe. Other symptoms include:
  • Discomfort that's typically worse after long periods of standing or walking
  • Redness and swelling around the toe joint
  • Corns or calluses where the first and second toe rub against each other
  • Limited range of motion of the affected toe

Most symptoms are worse when wearing shoes that are tight or have a pointed toe, or after spending a long time on your feet.

What Causes Bunions?

Most doctors agree that bunions are genetic, meaning you inherit the condition from one of your parents. They may also be caused by injury or stress to the foot. Bunions are also associated with inflammatory types of arthritis.

While most doctors don’t believe that footwear causes bunions, they do believe high heels and shoes with pointed toes exacerbate symptoms.

Bunions Complications and Prevention

The most common complications of bunions are bursitis, hammertoe , and metatarsalgia.

Since bunions are mostly hereditary, there isn’t much you can do to prevent them. However, you can lessen symptoms and keep the condition from worsening by avoiding high heels and wearing shoes with a wide toe box.

Photo of womans foot before and after bunionectomy

Bunions Treatment and Diagnosis

The bony protrusion of a bunion is fairly obvious, so diagnosis is relatively simple. However, your podiatrist may order x-rays to rule out other causes. Most patients do not require surgery. Your doctor may recommend:
  • Pads or orthotics to cushion the bunion and reduce discomfort
  • Wearing shoes that provide ample room for the toes
  • Applying ice to manage pain and swelling
  • Accommodations or modifications for patients who stand most of the day
Your doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.

Bunion Removal Surgery

Bunion removal surgery, more commonly known as a bunionectomy, may be recommended for more severe cases. Surgical options vary according to your unique situation and may include:

  • Correcting the angle by realigning one or more bones
  • Permanently joining the bones of the joint in the affected toe
  • Removing part of the bone to straighten the big toe
  • Removing swollen tissue from the area

Recovery time varies according to the procedure, but expect it to take anywhere from two weeks to three months.

Getting Ready for Your Appointment

Before consulting with your podiatrist, prepare a list of the following:

  • Your symptoms and when they began
  • Any activities that seem to make symptoms worse or better
  • Medications you take, including prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements
  • Recent lifestyle changes, such as a new job that requires you stand for long periods
  • The type of shoes you wear
  • Any questions you have for your doctor

If you have bunions, Phoenician Foot & Ankle Specialists can help. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.