What Is a Bunion?

A bunion is a painful, bony bump that develops at the joint at the base of the big toe. In addition to pain, which may be constant or intermittent, bunion symptoms include redness and swelling of the big toe joint, development of corns and calluses, and limited ability to move the big toe.

Most bunions form over time, as pressure at the base of the toe causes the big toe to move out of position, bending inward toward the second toe. A bunionette, or tailor’s bunion, is a type of bunion that develops on the outside of the foot at the joint of the little toe.

How Common Are Bunions?

A common foot disorder, bunions affect about 33% of adults in the United States, and women are more likely than men to develop bunions. While the cause of bunions is unknown, doctors believe consistently wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels cause the toes to compress and overlap. Heredity may also play a role, with certain foot shapes, structures, and mechanics being more prone to developing bunions. People with inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are also more likely to have bunions.

Common Treatments for Bunions

Applying ice to the painful bunion, taking over-the-counter pain medications, using bunion pads to eliminate irritation of the bunion, and receiving cortisone injections may help alleviate discomfort. Choosing roomy, well-fitting footwear with wide toe boxes and using shoe inserts may help keep the bunion from worsening.

Physical therapy is a viable option to help maintain joint alignment and prevent the progression of deformity.

A bunionectomy is the surgical removal of the bunion and straightening of the big toe. It is an option for those experiencing frequent bunion pain that interferes with daily activities.

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