Foot bunions form at the joint just below the big toe and show up as a bump on the inside of the foot. They can be extremely painful, and the longer they’re left untreated, the more painful they become. They also can cause the toe to move inward, making the bunion more pronounced and more painful.
Bunions can affect anyone, but they tend to be found in women more often. That’s because a leading cause of bunions is shoes that are too narrow or too tight at the ball of the foot and at the toes. Bunions can also be caused by heredity and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
A bunion is a bump that forms when the phalanges (bones) of the big toe shift inward and the joint begins to swell and grow. That swelling shows up as a bump on the side of the foot. In most cases, narrow shoes are the big culprit. The longer the narrow shoes are worn, the worse the bunion will get.
In many cases, wearing proper footwear can relieve bunion pain. If the shift of the big toe or the size of the bunion becomes excessive, surgery may be needed to repair the joint.
Most people would assume bunions are easy to diagnose thanks to the most obvious symptoms, the bending of the big toe inward and the bump on the side of the foot. In fact, symptoms of bunions can occur before that movement takes place. If treated early, bunions can be reduced or eliminated before they reach the extreme of bending the toe or needing surgery to correct.
Bunions can be diagnosed with a physical examination and x-rays.
Bunion treatment can vary depending on the severity of the bunion. In cases where footwear is the culprit, the easiest treatment is to change footwear to allow for proper space for the toes. Pads made for bunions and orthopedic inserts can also reduce the pain of bunions and allow the foot to heal.
Icing the bunion for several minutes each day can reduce the pain of a bunion. Over-the-counter medication can be used to reduce pain and inflammation.
In extreme cases, surgery may be required to get rid of the bunion and properly position the big toe. Usually, surgery is only recommended if other measures have not succeeded.