There are a number of structural issues with the foot that can lead to pain, reduced foot function, and an unusual or unsightly appearance of the foot. Many adult foot ailments stem from structural foot deformities that were present at birth or in early childhood. But not all foot deformities are present from birth (aka, congenital), some are acquired later on in life as a result of trauma or overuse. If detected early, many foot abnormalities can be treated during childhood to minimize impact to the foot’s structure and function in adulthood.
One of the most common foot deformities is bunions. A bunion is a bulge that develops over the big toe joint due to a structural deformity in the joint. A bunion is also usually characterized by a deviation in the position of the big toe. The name bunion is derived from the Latin word for turnip. The medical name for a bunion is hallux valgus.
Bunions tend to occur in families, which suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to developing bunions. Bunions tend to occur more frequently among women than men. This might be due to tight-fitting women’s footwear like pointed-toe shoes and many high-heeled shoe styles.
The main sign of a bunion is when the big toe points towards the other toes on the same foot, which may force the foot bone attached to it to stick outwards, creating a bulge.
Other visual signs and symptoms of a bunion may include:
- a swollen, bony bump on the outside edge of the foot
- changes to the shape of the foot
- sore, reddened or darkened skin on top of the bunion
- hard, callused skin underneath or on the side of the big toe
- reddened or thickened skin caused by the big toe and second toe overlapping
The pain associated with a bunion is caused by pressure and friction on the skin and soft tissues surrounding the bulging big toe joint. Bunion pain symptoms and side effects include:
- Inflammation and redness
- Increased tenderness or sensitivity
- Sharp pain or soreness
- A burning sensation
- Possible numbness
Bunion pain symptoms occur most often when wearing shoes that crowd the toes, such as shoes with a tight toe box or high heels. Spending long periods of time on your feet can also cause or increase bunion pain.
Bunion Side Effects
Over time, progression of the big toe deformity can affect the mechanics of the foot and put extra strain on the foot ligaments and muscles and pain in the forefoot and toes (metatarsalgia). A painful callus may also occur under the big toe joint.
Because the shape of the foot changes, bunions can make it difficult to find shoes that fit
If untreated, bunions can cause arthritis in the big toe and push the second toe out of place.
Bunion Treatment Options
Bunion treatment is initially conservative – changing footwear, pain medications, orthotics, taping, bunion splints, and foot exercises are usually recommended for less severe bunions. Bunion surgery may be recommended in more advanced cases. For more on how bunions are treated, read our bunion pain relief guide.
Do you suffer from bunions? Are you concerned about how to keep your bunion from getting worse? Make an appointment with Dr. Lamour today! Our Austin-area podiatry practice specializes in treating and relieving bunion pain.