A bunion is, unfortunately, a common foot problem. Bunions are not only unsightly, they can also be extremely painful. If you have to deal with this problem, here are some answers regarding what causes bunions, and some of the options you’ll have when it comes to finding treatment for bunions.
What Causes Bunions?
A bunion, or Hallux valgus, shows up as a bump on the big toe. The affected toe isn’t straight, but rather, it leans toward the toe right beside it.
This isn’t a problem that shows up overnight. It progressively gets worse as time goes on. In fact, it can take years before a bunion gets to the point that it starts to cause issues.
There are a few theories as to why bunions develop, but no one knows the exact reason. The most common theory is genetics. Some people are simply born with feet that have structural issues, and are more prone to suffering from this condition.1 Women tend to have bunions more than men do, possibly due to wearing shoes with high heels and pointed toes.2
But high heels aren’t the only culprits when it comes to making a bunion problem worse. Anyone who wears shoes that don’t fit correctly is at risk. If your shoes are too tight or not wide enough, you’ll be more susceptible to developing bunions than someone who wears comfortable shoes that fit properly.3 If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you might also have a higher chance of developing bunions.4
Symptoms of Bunions
There are several symptoms associated with bunions other than a big bump on the base of the big toe. For example, you might experience soreness, swelling, or redness in the affected area. You might also notice a corn or callus where the big toe meets the second toe. Restricted movement, numbness, burning, and persistent pain are other symptoms.5
Seeing a Doctor
If you have the dreaded “bunion bump” on your toe, or you are experiencing foot pain on a regular basis, you should consider seeing a doctor. This will also be the case if you can’t move your big toe or foot as easily as you once could.6
If you have problems finding shoes that fit due to your bunion, you’ll need to seek medical help.
A podiatrist will be able to diagnose the severity of a bunion. They may have to take X-rays in order to determine just how bad the deformity has become.7 The doctor can then put together the best plan of action to get your foot back to normal.
A bunion is a progressive issue that will probably get worse over time if you don’t get it addressed.8 If you don’t, you might be at risk of developing complications. One complication of a bunion, for example, is a condition known as “hammer toe.” This is where a toe bends abnormally, leading to a great deal of pressure and foot pain. Bursitis is another potential complication. This happens when inflammation occurs in the small sacs, known as the bursae, which cushion muscles, tendons, and bones.9
Dealing with Bunion Discomfort
People with bunions have quite a few options in order to reduce discomfort. The easiest thing to do is simply change the kind of shoes you’re wearing. Make sure your shoes have enough space in the front (the “toe box”) so you can wiggle your toes easily. Stay away from high heels or shoes with pointed toes.10
You can also find bunion pads at your local drugstore that may help reduce discomfort. Shoe inserts can also help relieve pain. They do so by helping to distribute pressure throughout your foot, rather than concentrating that pressure on your toes and making the bunion worse. Your doctor might prescribe a custom-made insert or recommend an over-the-counter support.
There are some cases where medical treatment might be necessary. For example, your doctor may recommend taking medications to reduce not only pain but also inflammation. Applying ice to the affected area at different times of the day could also help lessen pain.11
Unfortunately, there are times when bunion surgery will be needed.
There are several different procedures that are used in order to remove the bump and correct any structural problems. The type of surgery will often depend on the amount of foot pain that is occurring, the extent of the problem, the activity level of the patient, and other factors. While some patients can walk almost immediately after bunion surgery, it usually takes weeks, or even months, before a patient is completely healed.12
The Bottom Line
Bunions can be extremely serious. If you have any reason to suspect you might be developing one, see a foot doctor. The sooner you get the problem addressed, the less of a chance you’ll have to deal with serious complications.