A bunion is a thickened lump at the base of the big toe. It is the result of the movement of the base of the big toe away from the smaller toes. At the same time, the top of the big toe moves toward the smaller toes. This instability creates metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint inflammation and bursitis at the base of the big toe.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, but it is likely a combination of genetics and environmental factors.
Bunions are more common in women than in men. Other factors that may increase your chance of getting a bunion include:
You should seek medical attention if you have diabetes and you are having problems with your feet.
Bunions may cause:
The doctor will examine your foot and ask about your symptoms. An x-ray of your foot will be used to diagnose the bunion. It will also show the severity and amount of damage.
The goals of treatment are to relieve pressure on the bunion and stop progression of the deformity.
Padding the bunion may reduce pain and allow you to continue a normal, active life.
Taping helps to keep the foot in a normal position, reducing stress and pain.
Medication may be used to ease pain and inflammation, including:
Wear shoes that are wide and deep in the toe area. Make sure the top of the shoe doesn't hit or rub against the bunion. There should be half an inch of space between the shoe and the end of your longest toe when you are standing. It is best to try on shoes later in the day.
Physical therapy can relieve inflammation and pain. Ultrasound therapy is often used to treat bunions and related soft tissue problems.
Shoe inserts may help maintain foot function. They may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.
Surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure and repair the toe joint, if the other treatments fail. Surgical procedures include:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Podiatric Medical Association
Ontario Podiatric Medical Association
Bunions. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00155. Updated September 2012. Accessed February 10, 2014.
Bunion surgery. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00140. Updated September 2012. Accessed February 10, 2014.
Ferrari J, Higgins JP, et al. Interventions for treating hallux valgus (abductovalgus) and bunions. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. 2004;CD000964.
Foot care. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/foot-care. Updated October 17, 2013. Accessed February 10, 2014.
Hallux valgus and bunion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 31, 2014. Accessed February 10, 2014.
Maffulli N, Longo UG, Marinozzi A, Denaro V. Hallux valgus: effectiveness and safety of minimally invasive surgery. A systematic review. Br Med Bull. 2011;97:149-167.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.