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A bunion is a bony lump that develops on the joint at the base of the big toe. It is the result of the big toe being pushed against the next toe, which forces the big toe joint out of alignment, causing it to stick out and become enlarged. The skin over the bunion may be red and sore.

Causes of bunions

A bunion can develop for a number of reasons, including:

  • Hereditary factors – certain inherited foot defects can make bunions more likely.
  • Congenital factors – some people are born with foot deformities.
  • Injuries – if you injure the foot it can lead to the development of a bunion.
  • Arthritis – certain inflammatory types of arthritis can increase the risk of bunions.
  • Footwear – some people believe that wearing shoes that are too narrow or tight can contribute to the development of bunions.

Symptoms of bunions

Among the symptoms of bunions are:

  • A bulge on the outside of the base of your big toe which may be red, sore and swollen.
  • Pain which may be persistent or intermittent.
  • Corns or calluses where the first and second toes overlap.
  • Loss of movement in your big toe if it is affected by arthritis.

Diagnosis of bunions

Bunions are normally diagnosed using a physical examination. You may be referred for an X-ray to determine what is causing the bunion and its severity.

Treatment of bunions

Non-surgical treatments are normally recommended to treat bunions in the first instance. Although they will not cure the bunion, the following may help to alleviate some of the symptoms:

  • Wearing comfortable footwear that does not press on the big toe joint.
  • Painkilling medication or injections of corticosteroids into the affected joint to help to relieve the pain.
  • Bunion pads or taping to keep the foot in a normal position. This can reduce pressure on the bunion. Shoe inserts may also be used to provide pain relief and prevent the bunion from worsening.
  • Ice can be used to relieve inflammation.

If the bunion is causing persistent pain or interfering with everyday activities, surgery may be recommended. Among the surgical procedures for bunions are:

  • Removal of part of the bone to straighten the big toe.
  • Fusing the bones of the affected joint.
  • Removing swollen tissue from around the big toe joint.

After surgery you will need to wear comfortable shoes to prevent the bunion from recurring.


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