Even though bunions are a common foot deformity, there are misconceptions about them.  Many people may unnecessarily suffer the pain of bunions for years before seeking treatment.

What is a Bunion?

Bunions are often described as a bump on the side of the big toe.  The visible bump is actually a change in the bony framework of the front part of the foot.  With a bunion, the big toe leans toward the second toe, rather than pointing straight ahead.  This throws the bones out of alignment — producing the bunion’s “bump”.

Bunions are a progressive disorder.  They begin with a leaning of the big toe, gradually changing the angle of the bones over the years and slowly producing the characteristic bump, which continues to become increasingly prominent.  Usually the symptoms of bunions appear at later stages, although some people never have symptoms.

What Causes a Bunion?

Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot.  It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person more prone to the development of a bunion.

Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause a bunion in the first place, it can make the deformity get progressively worse.  That means you can develop symptoms sooner.


They most often occur when wearing shoes that crowd the toes — shoes with a tight toe box or high heel.  This may partially explain why women are more likely to have symptoms than men.  In addition, spending long periods of time on your feet can aggravate the symptoms of bunions.


Symptoms, which occur at the site of the bunion may include:

  • Pain or soreness
  • Inflammation or redness
  • A burning or numb sensation

Other conditions which may appear with bunions include calluses on the big toe, sores between the toes, ingrown toenail, and restricted motion of the toe.


Bunions are readily apparent — you can see the prominence at the base of the big toe or along the side of the foot.  However, to fully evaluate your condition, the podiatric foot and ankle surgeon will take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred.

Because bunions are progressive they don’t go away, and will usually get worse over time.  But not all cases are alike– some bunions progress more rapidly than others.  Once your surgeon has evaluated your particular case, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.


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