What is a bunion?

A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe. It forms when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out. The skin over the bunion might be red and sore.

Smaller bunions (bunionettes) may appear on the joint of your little toe.

You may experience visual symptoms, including a “bump” on the toe joint. It may also be difficult to move your big toe, and pain may persist as a result of bunions. Other problems, such as wearing proper-fitting shoes, may be an issue as well. A burning sensation or redness may also accompany the visible evidence of the bunion.

Why do bunions happen?

Bunions may occur on your toe as a result of inherited structural conditions, or they may be a result of external stresses such as wearing poorly-fitted or tight shoes. They may also happen because of wear and tear or excessive weight burdens associated with arthritis.

How are bunions treated?

Your foot and ankle doctor will conduct a visual examination and may order an X-ray to evaluate your bunion. In the early stages of bunion care, your physician may advise you to wear special orthotic padding in your shoes to alleviate discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medication and periodic icing may also relieve pain. Generally, non-surgical treatment and behavioral modification is preferable and will be prescribed first.

For more problematic cases, when non-surgical/conservative methods do not work or are not appropriate, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem. Bunion surgery will help not only remove the “bump” but also correct any underlying structural problems that may have caused the condition. After surgery, your physician will put you in a post-operative shoe and will conduct follow-up visits with you to evaluate the progress of your recovery. Dress shoes are not advisable for 5-6 months after surgery, and behavior must be modified to minimize swelling. As your foot continues to heal, modifications will be changed or reduced to enable you to slowly ease back into normal footwear and activity.

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