A bunion is when your big toe points toward the second toe. This causes a bump on the inside edge of your toe.
Bunions occur more commonly in women and can sometimes 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 extra bone and a fluid-filled sac grow at the base of the big toe.
- Red, calloused skin along the inside edge of the big toe
- A bony bump at this site
- Pain over the joint, aggravated by pressure from shoes
- Big toe turned toward the other toes
Exams and Tests
A doctor can usually diagnose a bunion by looking at it. However, the true severity of a bunion can only be evaluated with an x-ray evaluation. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot and, in some cases, arthritis.
When a bunion first begins to develop, take good care of your feet and wear wide-toed shoes. This can often solve the problem and prevent the need for any further treatment. It may help to wear felt or foam pads on the foot to protect the bunion, or devices called spacers to separate the first and second toes at night. These are available at drugstores. You can also try cutting a hole in a pair of old, comfortable shoes to wear around the house.
If the bunion gets worse -- resulting in severe deformity or pain -- surgery to realign the toe and remove the bony bump (bunionectomy) can be effective. There are over 100 different surgical techniques that have been described to treat this condition.
While many people have heard of painful stories about bunion surgery in most cases there is not significant postoperative pain or it can be easily managed with medication and post-operative compliance. Having the correct type of procedure is vital to the long term outcome of the correction. The type of procedure can vary from relatively simple to complex and only be determined with a clinical exam and weight-bearing x-ray evaluation.
Call for an appointment with 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
Avoid compressing the toes of your foot with narrow, poor-fitting shoes.