A bunion is a painful, bony bump that develops on the inside of the foot at the big toe joint. Bunions develop slowly as pressure on the joint pushes the big toe toward the second toe. Eventually, the bone structure changes and results in the bunion. Bunions become worse over time and can make walking or even wearing shoes painful. The condition also can lead to bursitis, chronic pain, and arthritis.
What causes it?
Anyone can get a bunion — even adolescents — but they are more common in women. In adults they’re often a price to be paid for tight, narrow shoes that push the toes together. If they develop during adolescence, they’re usually attributed to genetics. Bunions can also be caused by an inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis or a neuromuscular condition like polio.
How do you know you have it?
A bunion is a visible, unmistakable bump on the inside of the foot. Besides that, symptoms include:
- Pain and tenderness
- Redness and inflammation
- Hardened skin on the bottom of the foot
- A callus or corn on the bump
- Stiffness and restricted motion in the big toe
How we fix it
The OSI foot and ankle team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of a bunion. Our goal is to have you back on your feet, pain free, enjoying the activities you love. While you’re under our expert care, you may undergo the following to determine the best course of care:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a careful exam of your foot. They will be able to diagnose a bunion based on the look and symptoms.
- X-rays: X-rays will allow your doctor to check the alignment of your toes and look for damage to the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint.
Most bunions can be treated without surgery. Bunions cannot be healed, but the following treatment options can reduce your pain and discomfort:
- Changes in footwear. Switch to shoes that fit properly and don’t compress the toes. Your Orthopedic and Sports Institute of the Fox Valley doctor can give you information about proper shoe fit.
- Protective pads can help cushion the painful area over the bunion, and they can be purchased at drugstores or pharmacies.
- Orthotics and toe spacers. These devices can take pressure off your bunion and help relieve pain.
- Applying ice several times a day for 20 minutes at a time can reduce swelling.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.
If you still have pain and difficulty walking despite changes in footwear and other nonsurgical treatments, surgery might be an option. Bunion surgery realigns bone, ligaments, tendons, and nerves so the big toe can be brought back to its correct position. Bunion surgery is done as an outpatient procedure.
A long recovery is required after bunion surgery. Your foot will be bandaged, and it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for dressing care. Do not move or change the dressing without first talking to your doctor. Your incision site will need to stay dry until your sutures are removed and your dressing can be changed in the OSI office, and once they’re removed your foot will require support in the form of a brace, shoe, or boot for 6 to 12 weeks. After that, rehab and toe exercises are important so you regain range of motion. A majority of patients who undergo bunion surgery experience a reduction of foot pain once the healing phase is complete.