Bunions are an enlargement of the joint at the side and base of the big toe. A large lump of bone forms on the joint caused by the toe moving out of place and bending towards the other toes (referred to as hallux valgus). Symptoms are inflammation and pain when walking and this, along with the size of the lump, can worsen over time with the possibility of arthritis developing.
Did you know?
Bunions are more common in women
1 out of 50 people with bunions have never worn shoes
Twice as many people over 60 have bunions compared with those aged 30-60
1 in 50 children aged 9-10 have big toe problems which can lead to bunions
Causes of bunions
The exact cause of bunions is unclear however family history and badly fitting footwear are known risk factors.
If there's a family history of bunions then there is an increased risk of developing the problem yourself.
In many cases, bunions develop as a result of wearing badly fitting footwear. Women are more likely to develop the problem because of wearing tight, pointed and high-heeled shoes. Heels push the body's weight forward onto the front of the foot which places a strain on the toe joints. Tight fitting shoes rub against the joint of the big toe and continually wearing badly fitting footwear will worsen the problem.
Arthritis is also a common cause of bunions or it can make the condition worse. As the protective cartilage that covers the toe joints becomes damaged or diseased, the joints become stiff and trying to straighten them to prevent rubbing against the shoe is difficult.
Symptoms of bunions
The main symptom of bunions is a bony lump at the base of the big toe
joint. Bunions can appear red and swollen and feel painful although
some bunions have no pain whatsoever. The big toe is pushed inwards
toward the other toes and may cross over or under the second toe. Other
toes may also bend inwards due to less room inside a shoe.
The width of the foot can also increase due to the bony lump at the side. This can make wearing shoes uncomfortable and difficult.
Other symptoms of a bunions include:
• Tough skin over the lump which can become ulcerous
• Pain and difficulty walking when in shoes (especially heels or tight pointed footwear)
• Swelling and tenderness over the big toe joint (a condition known as bursitis)
• Altered foot shape
Diagnosis of bunions
Bunions can take years to develop with symptoms worsening over time
until they become unbearable. If you suspect you're developing a bunion
then visit your GP as soon as possible.
The GP will perform a physical examination of the foot and ask questions about pain or any difficulty wearing and walking in shoes. It's important to let your GP know about any medications or padding you may use to ease the symptoms.