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How to treat a bunion

Bunion

A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe.

Though many think bunions are a bone overgrowth, they actually form when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out. Bunions develop as a result of a genetic structural defect, stress on your foot or a medical condition, such as arthritis.

Bunions can develop as a result of the pressures of bearing and shifting your weight fall unevenly on the joints and tendons in your feet. This imbalance in pressure makes your big toe joint unstable, eventually turning the joint into a hard knob that juts out beyond the normal shape of your foot. The skin over the bunion is often red and sore.

Wearing tight, narrow shoes can make bunions worse. 

Smaller bunions (bunionettes) also can develop on the joint of your little toes.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a bunion are:

  • A bulging bump on the outside of the base of your big toe
  • Swelling, redness or soreness around your big toe joint
  • Thickening of the skin at the base of your big toe
  • Corns or calluses 
  • Pain

Treatment

The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends these at-home treatment options:

  • Applying a non-medicated bunion pad around the body area
  • Wear shoes with a wide and deep toe box
  • Apply ice packs several times a day to inflamed or painful bunions
  • Avoid high-heel shoes more than 2 inches tall

If at-home treatment doesn't provide relief from your symptoms, you may need surgery. There are a number of surgical procedures for bunions, and no one technique is best for every problem.

Surgical procedures for bunions might involve:

  • Removing the swollen tissue from around your big toe joint
  • Straightening your big toe by removing part of the bone
  • Realigning the long bone between the back part of your foot and your big toe, to straighten out the abnormal angle in your big toe joint
  • Joining the bones of your affected joint permanently
About Miki Matsuda DPM

Miki Matsuda, DPM, is a podiatrist with Ascension Medical Group in Wichita, Kansas.