What are Bunions?

A bunion is a deformity that occurs on the metatarsophalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. It presents as a bony bump, and causes the big toe to lean inwards towards the rest of the toes. You may also have heard of bunions being referred to as hallux valgus. It is a condition that can be painful, and require medical attention.

What Causes Bunions?

Bunions are usually caused by genetic factors that do not directly cause bunions, but affect the structure of the foot in a way that creates a predisposition to bunions. In other people, it may be caused by conditions that cause inflammation in joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis. They can also be caused by improper footwear that causes undue pressure on the metatarsophalangeal joint.

Symptoms of Bunions

In early stages, patients may be unable to detect bunions from the naked eye. In later stages, most patients can self-diagnose from observing the bony bump at the base of the big toe, and the big toe leaning in. It can be extremely painful in some patients, and make it difficult to walk or move the big toe. Some people also experience what is known as a “tailor’s bunion”, which is where a bunion occurs on the joint at the base of the little toe. Studies have shown that women are up to 10 times more likely to develop bunions and often do in adolescence, likely due to the fact that this is the age at which women begin changing their footwear. Bunions occur in both male and female adolescents, due to their high level of activity.

Treatment and Diagnosis of Bunions

Your doctor may be able to diagnose your bunion just from observation, but might require an X-ray as well. Conservative methods of treatment include painkillers and icing to relieve the painful symptoms, or padding of the afflicted area to prevent additional pressure, which may result in worsening of the bunion. You may also be prescribed orthotics or a change in footwear to reduce pressure on the joint and correct mechanical issues of the foot that may be causing the bunion. In some cases, your doctor could opt to surgically remove the bunion entirely.

It is important to seek necessary medical attention and treat your suspected bunion early on before it worsens. As with any medical condition, early intervention can prevent undue suffering in the long run.