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Bunions

A bunion forms when your big toe points toward the second toe. This causes a bump to appear on the inside edge of your toe.

Alternative Names

Hallux valgus

Causes

Bunions are more common in women than men. The problem can run in families. People born with abnormal bones in their feet are more likely to form a bunion.

Wearing narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes may lead to the development of a bunion.

The condition may become painful as the bump gets worse. Extra bone and a fluid-filled sac grow at the base of the big toe.

Bunion
Bunion

Symptoms

  • Red, thickened skin along the inside edge of the big toe
  • A bony bump at this site
  • Pain over the joint, which pressure from shoes makes worse
  • Big toe turned toward the other toes and may cross over the second toe

Exams and Tests

A doctor can very often diagnose a bunion by looking at it. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen.

Treatment

When a bunion first begins to develop, take good care of your feet.

  • Wear wide-toed shoes. This can often solve the problem and prevent you from needing more treatment.
  • Wear felt or foam pads on your foot to protect the bunion, or devices called spacers to separate the first and second toes. These are available at drugstores.
  • Try cutting a hole in a pair of old, comfortable shoes to wear around the house.

If the bunion gets worse and more painful, surgery to realign the toe and remove the bony bump (bunionectomy ) may help. There are more than 100 different surgical procedures to treat this condition.

Outlook (Prognosis)

You can keep a bunion from worsening by taking care of it and wearing different shoes when it first starts to develop.

Teenagers may have more trouble treating a bunion than adults, because it may be the result of an underlying bone problem.

Surgery reduces the pain in many, but not all, people with bunions. After surgery, people often have trouble wearing tight, fashionable shoes.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor if the bunion:

  • Continues to cause pain even after self-care, such as wearing wide-toed shoes
  • Prevents you from doing your usual activities
  • Has any signs of infection (like redness or swelling), especially if you have diabetes

Prevention

Avoid compressing the toes of your foot with narrow, poor-fitting shoes.

References

Richardson EG. Disorders of the hallux. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 81.

Wexler D, Grosser DM, Kile TA. Bunion and bunionette. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 76.

Updated: 3/8/2014

C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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