A bunion is a type of foot deformity that affects millions of men and women. Bunions form over time, but they begin when the big toe drifts inward. This throws off the alignment of the foot, changing the angle of bones in the front of the foot and eventually leading to the development of the characteristic bunion “bump” on the side of the big toe joint.
People often suffer with bunion pain for years before seeking treatment. The good news is that there is a variety of conservative treatments available to reduce the discomfort caused by bunions. Surgery is also an option when bunion pain becomes severe.
Causes of bunions
A bunion is more than just a growth on the outside of the foot; the bump reflects a complete shift in the bony framework of the foot. The cause of this shift is pressure and force. Tight-fitting shoes are usually the culprit. Shoes that have a narrow toebox and sloping foot bed force the toes forward and squeeze them together. The toes eventually become accustomed to the tight position and lead to the bunion deformity.
Genetics and past injuries also play a role in the development of bunions. Certain foot types make people more likely to get bunions, and women have a higher risk of developing bunions due to their choice of restrictive footwear.
The most telling symptom of a bunion is the bony outgrowth that develops on the outside of the base of the big toe.
Other symptoms that may occur at the site of the bunion include:
- Pain and tenderness
- Numbness, or alternately, a burning sensation
- Red, calloused skin
Bunion pain is aggravated by wearing tight fitting shoes and shoes that crowd the toes. Spending long periods of time on your feet can also give rise to painful bunion symptoms.
When bunions first develop, they may not require intervention. If the only symptoms are cosmetic, the best course of action is to change your footwear immediately.
Bunions that are causing severe pain or leading to the development of additional foot deformities (like overlapping toes) may require surgical intervention. There are many different types of bunion surgeries available. These procedures are all designed to:
- Address any soft tissue changes in the foot.
- Correct misalignment of the front foot.
- Remove the bony bump.
The goal of bunion surgery is to reduce pain associated with the deformity. Recovery from bunion surgery can be lengthy, so it is important to speak with a physician and investigate all treatment options before deciding to undergo surgery.