A bunion (hallux valgus) is a bump that seems to slowly grow on the inside of the big toe joint. It may develop on one or both feet. A bunion forms at the MTP (metatarsophalangeal) joint – the main joint at the base of the big toe – when the metatarsal bone shifts inward and the big toe moves towards the second toe.

Bunion Risk Factors

There are three main causes of bunions. These include:

  • Genetics – Some people are genetically predisposed to bunions. These tend to run in families and are called congenital bunions.
  • Footwear – Wearing ill-fitting shoes or shoes with a narrow toe box can leave the toe in an uncomfortable position and lead to the bunion deformity. Women who wear high heels are particularly at risk for bunions. These are called acquired bunions.
  • Inflammatory arthritis, gout and trauma – Rheumatoid arthritis and certain other disorders like gout may increase the likelihood of bunion development.

What are the Symptoms of a Bunion?

Bunions are a misalignment of the metatarsophalangeal joint including two small bones that move under the metatarsal head called sesamoids.  Most bunions don’t initially trigger severe pain that substantially impacts quality of life. Still, bunions are uncomfortable, often embarrassing, and often worsen if left untreated. With time, the misaligned bones become progressively arthritic, causing increasing pain even if the size of the bunion doesn’t increase.  Be sure to consult with an orthopedic physician if you notice a bunion, particularly if it is accompanied by any of the following:

  • Tenderness and pain around the toe joint
  • Thickened, callous skin on the bottom of the foot
  • A change in the way your shoes fit
  • Stiffness in your big toe
  • Difficulty walking or running

Bunion Treatment Options

Many patients with bunions can effectively manage their symptoms with orthotics, anti-inflammatory medication, and relatively simple lifestyle changes like making smarter shoe choices. The only way to effectively realign a bunion is with surgery. Less invasive bunion surgery with shorter recoveries and better outcomes are often achieved with earlier surgery. Unlike other orthopaedic conditions, surgery may be recommended to restore proper toe alignment once a bunion becomes uncomfortable (not severely painful) and before arthritis sets in.

If you’re living in the Greater Pittsburgh Region and are ready to find relief from uncomfortable bunions, turn to Orthopaedic Specialists. Our award-winning, board-certified orthopedic physicians put their nationally renowned expertise to work for our patients, who benefit from the latest breakthroughs in musculoskeletal care. Contact us today to learn more.

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