Do you have a swollen, painful bump on the outside of your big toe? If so, you may have a bunion. A bunion is a common deformity of the foot most often seen in women.
When you have a bunion, the bone or tissue at the joint at the base of your big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint) moves out of place, causing a painful lump on the side of the joint. The toe is forced to bend toward the others and the skin in the area may become red and tender. Putting weight on the foot and even wearing shoes can be painful with a bunion.
A bunion does not occur overnight. Rather, a bunion is the result of years of abnormal motion and pressure in the joint. When bunions run in families, it isn’t the bunion itself that is hereditary, but rather the type and mechanics of the foot that are prone to bunions.
In some cases, bunions are caused by injury, neuromuscular disorders or congenital deformities. People who have flat feet or who suffer from arthritis or inflammatory joint disease are more prone to bunions, as are people with a job or lifestyle that puts undue stress on the foot (dancers, for example). Wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels can also cause bunions.
Common symptoms of bunions include:
• A hard lump on the outside of the foot at the base of the big toe
• Redness, swelling or soreness near the joint between the big toe and the foot
• Restricted or painful motion of the big toe
• Overlapping first and second toes
There are several available treatments for bunions—the effectiveness of each treatment depends on the severity of the bunion. Home treatment for bunions include:
• Application of a bunion pad (which can be purchased at any pharmacy) to the area
• Wearing shoes with a wide toe box and avoiding shoes that are narrow in the toes
• Avoiding high heeled shoes over two inches
• Applying ice packs if the bunion becomes swollen or painful
• Wearing supportive shoes or custom orthotics
If pain or discomfort cannot be managed with the above treatments, you should seek medical attention from a podiatrist. Prior to surgery, your podiatrist may recommend any of the following treatments:
• Padding and taping the bunion to minimize pain and keep the foot in a normal position, reducing stress on the joint
• Anti-inflammatory drugs or cortisone injections
• Physical therapy
• Orthotic shoe inserts to control foot function
If these treatments fail, surgery may be necessary to relieve pain and pressure and to repair the toe joint. During surgery, the bony lump will be removed, restoring normal alignment of the joint.
If you have a bunion that is painful or continues to grow, seek medical attention. The larger and more painful the bunion is, the more likely you will need surgery to repair the joint and alleviate your pain.