Also known as a hallux valgus, bunions are bony bumps that form at the base of the big toe. Bunions are a common toe disorder that affects about a third of all adults in the US. They form due to the big toe pointing inward to the other toes of your feet. As a result, the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of your big toe points outward and forms a deformity by jutting out.

Bunions, if left untreated, can be the source of a lot of foot pain. Wearing narrow shoes aggravates and rubs against the skin over bunions. Walking or putting weight on the joint can lead to chronic pain over time. Bunionettes are bunions that form on the outer edge of the little toe. They may also be referred to as a "tailor's bunion." Your foot anatomy, genetics, and footwear all play a role in making you more predisposed to the formation of bunions on one or either of your feet.

What Are the Causes of Bunions?
Bunions on the big toe form for several reasons. These include:

  • Improperly fitted shoes—ones that are too tight or narrow.
  • Genetics.
  • Foot anatomy.
  • Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Patients that stand for long hours for work.
  • Pregnancy.

Bunions can be categorized in three ways: mild, moderate, and severe. If left untreated mild and moderate bunions transform into severe ones, affecting your ability to walk and overall quality of life.

What Are the Symptoms of Bunions?
Patients with bunions may experience the following symptoms:

  • Swelling around the MTP joint.
  • Blisters on the bunion.
  • Redness and warm to the touch.
  • Pain while wearing shoes.
  • Painful corns on the second toe.
  • Stiff big toe—especially in the case of patients with arthritis.

Prevention is ideal when it comes to managing and caring for bunions. If you have a mild bunion, it's best to seek podiatric treatment as soon as possible, as bunions only worsen and can affect your quality of life if left untreated. Regular checkups with your podiatrist can help not only prevent the onset of bunions but ensure appropriate care of your feet, especially if you have a family history or risk factors for bunions.

Treatment that your podiatrist recommends depends on if your bunion is mild, moderate, or severe in nature. The following forms of treatment are common for bunions:

  • Wear comfortable footwear that's wide enough in the toe box and have heels no higher than an inch in height.
  • Use of orthotic insoles and pads.
  • Splint.
  • Warm soaks and ice packs to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • NSAIDs.
  • Cortisone injections.

Podiatric surgery to repair and realign the MTP toe joint is only recommended when a bunion affects your ability to walk and is extremely painful.