Bunions: Causes, Symptoms, Surgery And Prevention

How to Treat and Prevent Bunions

Many people often have misconceptions about bunions. They believe that, the bony lump sticking out from their foot is just extra bone. But in fact, a bunion is actually an angular deformity of the joint at the base of the great toe.

What Are Bunions?

Bunion are a common foot deformity that cause inflammation of the joint, which connects your big toe to your foot. They develop as a painful bony bump on the inside of the foot at the big toe joint. Bunions develop slowly. 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. This deformity will gradually increase and may make it painful to wear shoes or walk.

Anyone can get a bunion, but they are more common in women. Many women wear tight, narrow shoes that squeeze the toes together—which makes it more likely for a bunion to develop, worsen and cause painful symptoms.

Bunions of both feet

What Causes Bunions?

The exact cause of bunions is unknown, but they tend to run in families. Factors that can also cause bunions include:

  • Wearing badly fitting shoes. These includes shoes such as those with a narrow, pointed toe box. Because, they forces the toes into an unnatural position.
  • Certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout
  • Foot injuries
  • Congenital deformities

What are the Symptoms of Bunions

The main sign of a bunion is the big toe pointing towards the other toes on the same foot. This may force the foot bone attached to it (the first metatarsal) to stick outwards.

Bunions: causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention

Other symptoms may include:

  • a swollen, bony bump on the outside edge of your foot
  • pain and swelling over your big toe joint that’s made worse by pressure from wearing shoes
  • hard, callused and red skin caused by your big toe and second toe overlapping
  • sore skin over the top of the bunion
  • changes to the shape of your foot, making it difficult to find shoes that fit
  • joint pain
  • difficulty walking
  • inability to wear certain shoes

Bunion Diagnosis

Diagnosis of bunions typically comes after an bone evaluation of the following three areas:

  • Your medical history
  • A physical examination
  • X-ray results

These three components aim to assess the scope of your misalignment. They also determine any circulatory or nerve conditions that are potentially causing your bunion.

Treatment of Bunions

In most cases, bunions are treated without surgery. Although nonsurgical treatment cannot actually “reverse” a bunion, it can help reduce pain and also keep the bunion from worsening. However, reducing pressure on the bunion is the first step in reducing bunion pain. Wearing correct fitting shoes is important in achieving this.

Non-surgical treatments include:


  • Wear the right kind of shoes. Choose shoes that have a wide toe box and forgo those with pointed toes or high heels. Because,they may aggravate the condition.
  • Put pads over the area of the bunion to help minimize pain. You can either get pads from your surgeon or at a drug store.
  • Avoid activity that causes bunion pain such as standing for long periods of time.
  • Take painkillers such as ibuprofen to help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Apply an ice pack several times a day to help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • In some cases, custom orthotic devices may be provided by the foot and ankle surgeon.


If nonsurgical treatments fail to relieve bunion pain and the pain interferes with daily activities, it is time to discuss surgical options. This is with a foot and ankle surgeon. Together you can decide if surgery is best for you.

A variety of surgical procedures is available to treat bunions. The procedures are designed to remove the bump of bone. Additionally, to correct the changes in the bony and soft tissue structure of the foot. The goal of surgery is the reduction of pain and deformity.

In selecting the procedure for a particular case, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level and other factors. However, the length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.

After surgery

After bunion surgery, your foot and ankle may be swollen for three months or longer. While you’re recovering, you’ll need to keep your foot raised to reduce swelling, and you’ll need crutches to move around.

It’s likely that you’ll be unable to wear normal shoes for at least six months after surgery. You may have a cast or bandage and postoperative shoes (shoes specially designed to allow heel walking and protect the bony cuts) before you can start wearing regular footwear. This will keep the bones and soft tissues in place while they heal.

Tips for Proper Shoe Fit

Because poorly-fitting shoes are a common cause of bunions — and can worsen an existing bunion — it is important to be sure that your shoes fit correctly. In general, go for shoes with wide insteps, broad toes, and soft soles. Avoid shoes that are too short, tight, or sharply pointed, and those with heels higher than a couple of inches. Higher-heeled shoes put more pressure on the forefoot and increase the likelihood of foot problems or injury.

The following tips will help you choose a shoe that fits correctly:

  • Do not select shoes by the size marked inside the shoe. Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles. Judge the shoe by how it fits on your foot.
  • Select a shoe that conforms as nearly as possible to the shape of your foot.
  • Have your feet measured regularly. The size of your feet changes as you grow older.
  • Have both feet measured. Most people have one foot larger than the other. Fit to the largest foot.
  • Fit at the end of the day when your feet are the largest.
  • Stand during the fitting process and check that there is adequate space (3/8″ to 1/2″) for your longest toe at the end of the shoe.
  • Make sure the ball of your foot fits well into the widest part (ball pocket) of the shoe.
  • Do not purchase shoes that feel too tight, expecting them to “stretch” to fit.
  • Your heel should fit comfortably in the shoe with a minimum amount of slippage.
  • Walk in the shoe to make sure it fits and feels right. Fashionable shoes can be comfortable.


About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At felclinic.com we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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