A bunion is a thickened lump at the base of the big toe. It causes the big toe to move toward the smaller toes. It can make walking difficult.
Caused by a deformity of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of the big toe, bunions result in joint instability.
Deformity can be caused by:
- Flat feet, which transfer too much weight to the MTP joint
- Narrow-toed shoes and high heels
- Certain neuromuscular diseases, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis
- Marfan syndrome
- Activities that put undue stress on the feet, such as ballet
Factors that increase your chance of getting a bunion include:
- Family members who have foot abnormalities
- Sex: female
You should seek medical attention if you have diabetes and you are having problems with your feet.
What a Bunion Feels & Looks Like
- Tip of the big toe that turns in toward the other toes and may overlap the second or third toe
- Firm bump on the outside edge of the foot or at the base of the big toe
- Restricted or painful motion of the big toe
- Foot pain and stiffness
- Fluid-filled cyst between the skin and the bony lump
The goals of treatment are to relieve pressure on the bunion and stop progression of the deformity.
Padding and Taping
Padding the bunion may reduce pain and allow you to continue a normal, active life.
Taping helps to keep the foot in a normal position, reducing stress and pain.
Medication may be used to ease pain and inflammation, including:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Cortisone injections
Wear shoes that are wide and deep in the toe area. Make sure the top of the shoe doesn't hit or rub against the bunion. There should be half an inch of space between the shoe and the end of your longest toe when you are standing.
Physical therapy can relieve inflammation and pain. Ultrasound therapy is often used to treat bunions and related soft tissue problems.
Shoe inserts may help maintain foot function. They may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.
Surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure and repair the toe joint, if the other treatments fail. Surgical procedures include:
- Removal of the bony lump
- A more involved procedure to cut the bone and realign the joint
We consider surgery when:
- Other attempts at therapy have failed, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, specially shaped shoes, or inserts to decrease pressure
- The pain of a bunion interferes with walking
- The foot deformity makes walking difficult
If you are planning to have a bunion removal, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Toe may be misaligned or too short
- The bunion may recur
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Smoking and alcohol abuse
- Poor nutrition
- Poor health
The Bunion Removal Procedure
There are several types of bunion removal. Generally, the doctor will cut into the foot near the bunion. The excess growth of bone will be removed with a bone saw. Depending on the degree of deformity, the doctor may need to cut into the bone of the toe. The bones will then be realigned so that the toe no longer slants to the outside. Other revisions may be needed as well. Improving the angle of the toe and repairing these bones may require a metal pin, screw, or rod to hold the bones in place. The incisions will be closed with stitches. A bulky bandage will be placed over the area.
What You Should Know About Bunion Removal
- The procedure lasts from less than 30 minutes to over 2 hours
- You may be released the same day or need to stay in the hospital overnight.
- Recovery can take 8 weeks
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.