What Causes Bunions & How Do You Treat Them?

A bunion (hallux abducto valgus) is a boney and sometimes painful lump that occurs from years of pressure on the big toe joint (the metatarsophalangeal or MTP joint).

Big toe bunions are the most common, but there are other types of bunions, too. These include:

  • Congenital hallux valgus – an infant born with a bunion(s)
  • Juvenile or adolescent hallux valgus – tweens and teens (between the ages of 10 and 15) that may develop bunions
  • Tailor’s bunion (bunionette) – a bunion that forms on the outside base of the pinky toe

So, what causes bunions, and what are some risk factors that can exacerbate the condition? Keep reading to find out!

What Causes Bunions?

Bunions are a genetic condition, meaning you inherit them from your parents. They occur due to faulty foot structures, like:

  • Flat feet
  • Excessively flexible ligaments
  • Abnormal bone structure

Poorly fitted shoes can also worsen the condition.

Bunions do not go away on their own and will only worsen over time. They can be aggravated by:

  • Tight shoes that cause the toes to crowd together and put pressure on the big toe
  • Shoes that have high heels
  • Shoes that have a pointed toe
  • Standing for long periods
  • Arthritis in your feet

Symptoms include:

  • A bump on the big toe at the MTP joint
  • Red and inflamed skin around the bump
  • Your big toe turns towards your other toes
  • Corns or calluses (thick skin) on the underside of your big toe
  • Foot pain and/or burning (persistent or intermittent)
  • Difficulty moving your big toe
  • Hammertoes (painful, tight toe tendons and joints)
  • Numbness in the big toe

You should see a doctor if you experience persistent foot pain, inability to find shoes that fit comfortably, decreased flexibility in your big toe, or you discover a large lump on or near the MTP joint.

Nonsurgical Intervention for Bunions

You can take many steps to help mitigate bunions’ symptoms before turning to surgery. These include:

  • Wearing shoes with padded soles that provide enough wiggle room for your toes
  • Having your doctor pad and tape your foot into a normal position, reducing pressure on the bunion
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen
  • Wearing over-the-counter arch supports in your adequately fitted shoes

Surgical Intervention for Bunions

If the nonsurgical intervention does not provide enough pain relief, your doctor may suggest that you have surgery to correct the problem. There are many surgical procedures that doctors use to treat bunions. Don’t worry; your doctor will be able to recommend which one is right for you. However, most surgeries include bunionectomy.

A bunionectomy involves correcting the position of the big toe by removing some bone and swollen tissue from the affected joint. Full recovery after a bunionectomy can take up to eight weeks.

Bunion Complications

Bunions can cause bursitis. Bursitis occurs when there is irritation to the bursa (the fluid-filled sac that cushions the joint). This irritation causes the bursa to become inflamed and swollen, causing pain and tenderness that may limit movement to other joints in the toe.

Other complications include:

  • Toe or foot deformity
  • Stiff toe
  • Chronic toe or foot pain

You should contact your doctor immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms and have diabetes or any signs of infection.

Contact A Podiatrist Today!

At The Foot & Ankle Center, our podiatrists are highly skilled and equipped to help treat various foot-related ailments. Our goal is to get you up on your feet as soon as possible following an injury or surgery.

To request a same-day appointment, contact us here or call us at (314) 487-9300.