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A bunion or hallux valgus is a bony bump usually painful that is formed at the big toe joint (where your big toe meets your foot). This joint is known as the MTP (metatarsophalangeal) joint. It happens when the bones in the front portion of your foot move out of place which results in the formation of a bunion. A toe bunion develops slowly over time and ultimately gets bigger and sticks out. If this condition gets worse it may be difficult and painful for an individual to wear shoes or walk. Anyone can develop a bunion but they are most common amongst women who tend to wear tight-fitting shoes like heels which can lead to the bones in the foot to shift and form a foot bunion. 

A bunion is a relatively common deformity and about 15-25% of people have it. It is a progressive disorder that gradually changes the appearance of a foot by slowly forming the characteristic of a bump, which becomes increasingly prominent.


Researchers and doctors have many theories as to how bunions are formed but the exact cause is still unknown. Some causes of bunion formation include:

  • Wearing tight and fitted shoes, particularly with narrow pointed toe boxes, forces toes in uncomfortable positions. 
  • Conditions that cause pain in your joints, like arthritis, can lead to bunions. 
  • It may be hereditary as some people have feet that are more likely to eventually develop bunions because of their shape and structure. 


 Besides the very visible bump on the side of the toe, the other symptoms of a bunion may include:

  • Pain and tenderness around or in the bump
  • Redness around the bony bump
  • Skin hardening on the bottom of the foot
  • A callus on the bump
  • Inflammation
  • Stiffness in the big toe leads to restricted motion and can make walking difficult. 


The diagnosis for bunions is pretty simple and straightforward. Your preventive care physicians can tell you have a bunion just by looking at your foot, but they’ll probably do an X-ray to see if the joint is damaged. That also can tell them how serious it is and possibly what caused it, which can help them decide how to treat it. 


The treatment depends on the size and the severity of the bunion you have. Bunion treatment can either be surgical or nonsurgical.

Nonsurgical treatment includes:

  • Changing shoes: Wear shoes that are comfortable and not too tight. They should be roomy especially towards the arch and ball of the foot. 
  • Shoe inserts: You can also use shoe inserts to provide your feet some extra comfort. Shoe inserts help in distributing the pressure evenly along the foot, making it easier for you to walk by reducing foot bunion symptoms and preventing it from getting worse. There are some over-the-counter supports that may provide you relief or you can also go for other prescription orthotic devices.
  • Applying ice packs: In case you have been on your feet for too long which may have led to inflamed bunions, use ice packs to relieve the swelling and soreness. Although you should check with your physician before applying ice packs if you have reduced feeling in your feet. 

If the bunion is severe, you may need bunion surgery, which will involve removing the enlarged portion of the bone, cutting to bring the bone back in shape, and correcting the position of tendons and ligaments. 

When to see a doctor?

Although bunions often require no medical treatment, see your preventive care physician if you are facing the following problems:

  • Constant pain in the foot and big toe
  • A visibly growing bump on the big toe joint. 
  • Decreased movement of your foot.

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