Bunions are bony protrusions that develop on the side of the big toe, at its base. Unlike calluses and other skin conditions, bunions are caused by the bone structure of the foot. They develop when the big toe becomes misaligned and grows in toward the other toes. The bone of the big toe then pushes against the metatarsal bone, which is behind the big toe. The outward force of the big toe’s bone against the metatarsal creates a bony lump at the joint, which is a bunion.
A few different factors may cause a big toe to begin growing in toward the other toes and eventually form a bunion. Some common causes include:
Weak or poor foot structure
Wearing ill-fitting shoes (especially pointed high heels)
Having one leg, that is longer than the other
Along with a bony lump, which is the bunion itself, bunions can cause the following symptoms:
Swelling, soreness and redness near the bunion
A thickening of the skin around the bunion
Calluses or corns where the first and second toes overlap
Limited movement of the big toe
In mild cases, bunions may be successfully treated by changing shoes, splinting or padding the toe and using shoe inserts. Ice packs, heat packs, and medication may also be used to reduce pain and swelling.
When these non-invasive solutions aren’t adequate, surgery may be necessary. Depending on a patient’s particular circumstances, a podiatrist might recommend surgically removing swollen tissue from around the bunion, straightening the big toe, realigning the metatarsal bone, or fusing the big toe’s bone and the metatarsal bone together. Each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s impossible to say which one is preferable without seeing a podiatrist in person.