Bunion Basics

Bunions are a fairly common foot woe. A bunion looks like a big bump on the outside of the big toe, but it is actually caused by a deformity of the bones in the foot. Certain people are more likely to develop bunions due to genetics or the condition arthritis, and others develop bunions after consistently wearing uncomfortable shoes. Whether you are experiencing a bunion or hoping to prevent them, simple foot care can keep you from getting bummed out by a bunion!

A bunion is created when the big toe leans and pushes against the second toe. This changes the bone structure of the toes over time, and forms the visible bump at the base of the big toe. This issue is exacerbated by wearing high-heeled or pointy-toed shoes, putting women at a higher risk of developing bunions. Bunionettes (also called Tailor’s Bunions) occur on the other side of the foot when the pinky toe leans into the other toes, and a bump forms at the base of the pinky toe. If you are worried about bunions or if you notice they are prevalent in your family members, the best proactive measure to take is choosing comfortable and supportive footwear. Choose a pair of shoes with enough room in the toe box area for all the toes to fit comfortably without overlapping. Strong support in the sole also helps evenly distribute weight and puts less pressure on the toes.

Treatment Options

If you’ve already developed bunions, you may experience symptoms like pain and inflammation at the site of the bump. Besides changing your footwear, there are ways to soothe these symptoms. Using a pad or cushioned bandage over the bunion can help prevent uncomfortable chafing around the bunion. Oral anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and applying an ice pack to the area can relieve pain and inflammation. Bunions are a progressive bone deformity, and many bunions won’t progress to the point of needing surgery if preventative measures are taken.

Conservative treatments are always recommended first, but in cases of severe bunions where the patient is in pain, surgery is an option. Bunion surgery involves reshaping the bone in the toe, and the procedure varies depending on the severity of the deformity. A bunionectomy is performed to shave down the bump in the bone on the side of the toe, and an osteotomy procedure involves cutting and resetting the bone with screws to correct the deformity. Examine your feet regularly to notice any changes in your toes, and wear appropriate footwear to support your feet and prevent bunions.