What is a bunion?
A bunion is a deformity of the big toe joint. When this occurs, the bones in the joint gradually become misaligned so that the big toe points towards the smaller toes. A large, bony lump at the base of the big toe joint may also develop.
Other common symptoms of a bunion can include:
- Pain and discomfort
- Redness and inflammation
- Stiffness at the big toe joint — which, combined with the pain, may affect walking and sporting activities
- Soreness and blistering where shoes have been rubbing on the bunion
- Difficulty finding shoes that fit because of changes to the shape of the foot
- In severe cases, the big toe may end up completely overlapping the second toe, resulting in more pain, calluses and corns.
A bunion may develop at just one or both of your big toe joints. It is also possible to get a bunion on your little toe. This is called a bunionette or tailor’s bunion.
What is the cause of a bunion?
You now know what a bunion is but what is the cause of a bunion? Bunions are often thought to be caused by deficiencies in how the structures in the foot move and function. Some of these are genetic, which is why bunions sometimes run in families. Poor footwear choices do not necessarily cause bunions, but they can make the problem worse.
Certain medical conditions such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis and hypermobility (having very flexible joints) also make a person more prone to getting a bunion.
How can I prevent bunions?
Now that you know the cause of bunions, how can you prevent them? There is no fail-safe way to prevent bunions. However, it makes good sense to wear properly fitting shoes with a heel height of approximately 2.5 cm. Where possible, avoid wearing high heels, tight or pointy footwear, or backless shoes. If you have flat feet, a low arch, or any problems with your lower limbs, consider getting some insoles to support the normal functioning of your feet.
For more advice about footwear or orthotics, contact We Fix Feet to make an appointment with one of our foot health professionals.
Can I make my bunion go away?
Unfortunately, in most cases, it isn’t possible to get rid of a bunion without surgery. Wearing a splint may keep the big toe joint in a straighter position, but it won’t permanently cure the problem. This is because the bones in your foot have undergone changes. However, there are lots of things you can do to make the bunion more comfortable and stop it from getting worse.
- Wear shoes with a low heel that has plenty of space for your toes and is wide enough for your feet. If you are struggling to find footwear that is suitable, talk to your foot care expert at We Fix Feet for more guidance.
- Protect the bunion with a pad made of gel, foam or semi-compressed felt. These are inexpensive and provide cushioning and comfort.
- If the big toe is rubbing on the second toe, use a toe spacer to separate them.
- Warm soaks, ice packs or a simple massage to the area can ease the pain, as can over-the-counter painkillers.
- Book an appointment at our We Fix Feet Podiatry and Footcare clinic, where we can assess the severity of your bunion and provide expert, tailored advice. Our podiatrists can also perform a biomechanical assessment and prescribe insoles to improve the function of your feet.
Home remedies aren’t helping – now what?
If you have tried all of the above without success, there are further options:
- An X-ray of your foot may be taken to help assess its severity. Blood tests can help to rule out other conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
- You may be given a steroid injection into the big toe joint to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- Surgery is recommended when the bunion is painful and severe. This is usually effective, but in a small number of cases, the bunion may return.
Do you suffer from bunions?
We hope this blog post has helped you understand the cause of a bunion and how to prevent them. The podiatrists and foot health practitioners at We Fix Feet are experienced in diagnosing and managing bunions. If you want to find out more about how we can help you, book an appointment with our foot care experts. We have clinics in Ilkeston, Derby and Beeston, Nottingham.