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Bunions

Bunions are often misunderstood. Many see a bunion as simply a bump that appears on the side of the big toe. But the bump is indicative of the changing structure of the foot. The big toe bends inward towards the second toe, which produces the bump visible on the side of the toe. The angle at which the toes rest is affected over time and the bunion often gets worse as the disorder progresses.

Cause of Bunions

Bunions are the result of problems with the structure of the foot. Certain types of feet may increase one’s risk of developing the change in foot structure that causes bunions. Wearing certain types of shoes that push the toes together may worsen or progress the condition. Injuries may also cause the shift in foot structure that causes bunions.

Symptoms of Bunions

Most experience symptoms when wearing ill-fitting shoes or those that push the toes together, or when standing for prolonged periods. Pain and discomfort in the area, soreness, burning sensation, numbness, and inflammation are potential signs and symptoms of bunions. Individuals who have bunions may also experience ingrown toenails, calluses on the big toe, or limited range of motion in the big toe.

Diagnosis of Bunions

Most are able to easily diagnose bunions simply by looking at the side of the big toe. A prominence will appear on the side of the toe, indicating a bunion. Some may require X-rays and other imaging techniques to thoroughly evaluate the bunion and the structure of the foot to determine the severity of the condition causing the bunion.

Treatment of Bunions

Treatment of bunions usually includes relieving pain caused by the condition. Avoiding shoes that push the toes together such as those with pointed toes (high heels, for instance) is recommended to relieve symptoms. Padding round the bunion may reduce discomfort, and bunion pads are readily available. Some may be encouraged to avoid any activities that trigger symptoms, such as prolonged standing.

Medication may be required to relieve pain in some cases. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain. Some may use custom orthotic devices, while applying ice to the area may help with any inflammation and pain.

Surgery may be required in severe cases. If your bunions cause you to alter your lifestyle or avoid certain activities, this may be an indication that surgery is needed. Your doctor will discuss surgical options with you to determine if it is necessary.

Surgical procedures to treat bunions include those that remove the actual bunion (the bump on the side of the big toe), improve the bone structure of the foot, and improve any changes that have occurred to any tissue in the foot.


This information has been prepared by the Consumer Education Committee of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, a professional society of 6,200 foot and ankle surgeons.Members of the College are Doctors of Podiatric Medicine who have received additional training through surgical residency programs. The mission of the College is to promote superior care of foot and ankle surgical patients through education, research and the promotion of the highest professional standards.

Copyright © 2008,American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons

American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons