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Bunions: All You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Martha Juco, MD · Aesthetics

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 10, 2022

    Bunions: All You Need To Know

    A bunion is a bony bump that develops on the joint at the base of your big toe. It happens when some of the bones in the front of your foot move out of place, pulling the tip of your big toe toward the smaller toes and forcing the joint at the base of your big toe to stick out. Smaller bunions (bunionettes) can occur on the joint of your little toe. 

    What causes bunions to grow? Wrong bone structure, flat feet, excessively flexible ligaments, and genetically predisposed incorrect foot anatomy are just a few factors that might contribute to the development of bunions. Bunions can also develop as a result of the shape of your foot, a foot deformity, or a medical condition like arthritis. Wearing tight, narrow shoes may induce bunions or make them worse. Surgery is the only way to remove bunions, but there are things you can do to ease any pain they cause.

    Why Do Bunions Develop?

    What causes bunions to grow? There are many theories about how bunions form, but the exact cause is unknown. Factors likely include:

    • Inherited foot type
    • Foot stress or injuries
    • Deformities present at birth
    • tight or too-narrow shoes
    • Additionally, since incorrect foot anatomy is inherited, bunions are widely believed to be genetic in origin.

    These elements could raise your chance of developing bunions:

    • High heels, which squeeze your toes into the front of your shoes and frequently cause discomfort,
    • Uncomfortable footwear, including shoes that are too thin, too pointed, or too tight
    • Having rheumatoid arthritis increases your risk of developing bunions because it is an inflammatory disease

    Complications and side effects include:

    • When the tiny fluid-filled pads that cushion the bones close to your joints become inflamed, bursitis, a painful ailment, may develop.
    • The toe next to your big toe is typically the toe with hammertoes, which are irregular bends in the middle joint that can be painful and press on nearby joints.
    • Metatarsalgia is a condition that makes the ball of your foot hurt and swell.

    Signs of a Bunion

    The following may indicate a bunion:

    • A bulging bump on the outside of the base of your big toe
    • Swelling, redness, or soreness around your big toe joint
    • Corns or calluses, which frequently form where the first and second toes rub against each other
    • Constant pain caused by cramped toes are signs that you may have a bunion.
    • Sometimes hardened skin or a callus will conceal the bump.
    • Your big toe will point in the direction of your smallest toe.


    Change to a pair of shoes with ample toe and foot room. Do not wear heels higher than 2 inches. To reduce friction and inflammation, add shoe padding. You may ask your doctor about pain management. You may also consider wearing a nighttime splint to help straighten the joint. 

    Therapy for Bunions

    There are conservative measures that can help manage pain and discomfort but the definitive treatment would be surgery. Specifically, the procedure is known as an osteotomy. This involves making a small incision in the skin above your big toe. Medication and surgery are the two main methods of active treatment for bunions.


    Medication can reduce swelling and pain. Ibuprofen, for instance, can lessen pain and swelling.

    Injections of cortisone can reduce swelling, especially in the fluid-filled cushions that cushion the bones. Ask your doctor for advice.

    Bunion Removal

    When surgery is required for bunions, there are a variety of different techniques that can be used. The entire procedure can take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours, depending on the severity of the bunion and the procedure required to treat it.

    Surgery might be appropriate for those who:

  • Suffer pain and inflammation that conventional treatments do not seem to be able to alleviate
  • A malformation that is so severe that a toe may cross over another toe.
  • Due to stiffness, one cannot bend or straighten a toe.
  • In younger individuals with bunions, bunion surgery is quite uncommon.
  • Full recovery from surgery can take up to 6 months, and frequent doctor visits may be required.
  • The goals of surgery are to eliminate discomfort, realign the metatarsophalangeal (mtp) joint, and treat any underlying abnormalities.

    Key Takeaways

    A bunion is a bony bump that develops on the joint at the base of your big toe. It may cause discomfort or extreme pain. Consult your doctor regarding the best plan for pain management or even surgery if your bunion prohibits you from doing simple tasks. 

    Learn more about other Skin Issues here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Martha Juco, MD


    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 10, 2022

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