A bunion, or hallux valgus, is a bony bump on the first joint of the big toe, known as the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP). The MTP joins the big toe to the foot. Occasionally, the little toe develops a bunion, called a bunionette. Bunions can be red and painful, or they may have no symptoms at all, other than their enlarged and unattractive appearance. Bunions are diagnosed by X-rays that demonstrate misalignment of the toe joints.
What Causes Bunions?
Bunions arise slowly when the big toe is chronically pressed toward the second toe or is otherwise forced out of alignment. The pressure causes the MTP to stick outward and grow larger. Bunions can also be caused by:
- Ill-fitting shoes
- Stress on your foot
- Medical conditions, including arthritis and polio
Bunions begin as small bumps, which worsen and grow over time. The MTP joint flexes each time you take a step, which is why your bunion may become painful the larger it grows.
Severe bunions can cause the big toe to overlap the second toe. The second toe may then rub up against the third toe. All of this friction can create calluses and other abnormalities. Bunions and calluses can make walking quite painful.
What Are the Best Treatments for Bunions?
The experts at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists recommend that anyone with a bunion switch to well-fitting shoes that allow the toes adequate space. Narrow, pointed-toe shoes are the primary cause of bunions. Other lifestyle changes to alleviate bunions include:
- Bunion pads to reduce pressure
- Orthotics to straighten your toes
- Icing the affected joint for 20 minutes several times a day
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
If lifestyle changes don't bring relief and if you have chronic pain or difficulty walking, your expert at Alliance can correct the bunion with surgery.
What Happens If I Don’t Treat a Bunion?
Because you stress the MTP when you walk, if you don’t treat a bunion, it may worsen over time. Untreated bunions can lead to:
- Difficulty finding shoes that fit
- Pain while walking
- Difficulty walking
- Calluses and corns
- Hardened soles of the feet
- Arthritis in the big toe