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A bunion is a common deformity at the base of your big toe which may cause foot pain or make it difficult finding shoes that fit.

What are bunions?

A bunion, also known as hallux valgus, is when your big toe turns towards your other toes forming a bony lump on the side of your foot. Sometimes a soft swelling will develop over the lump called bursitis. Sometimes a smaller bunion can appear on your little toe.

In most cases, it may not be obvious why a bunion has formed, but certain things increase your risk of getting them including:

  • Activities such as rock climbing or ballet
  • Being a woman
  • Family history of bunions
  • Foot abnormalities
  • Joint problems such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Wearing tight-fitting or high heeled shoes

How to tell if you have bunions

If you have a bunion, you may notice:

  • Your big toe pointing at your other toes
  • Difficulty moving your toe or foot
  • Difficulty finding shoes that fit and are comfortable
  • Hard lumps at the base of your big toe
  • Pain caused by increased pressure on the ball of your foot (called metatarsalgia)
  • Red and sore skin over the lump

You might also develop corns or calluses around your big toe.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

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Diagnosis and tests for bunions

Although bunions often require no medical treatment, see your GP or a doctor who specializes in treating foot disorders (podiatrist or orthopaedic foot specialist) if you have:

  • Persistent big toe or foot pain
  • A visible bump on your big toe joint
  • Decreased movement of your big toe or foot
  • Difficulty finding shoes that fit properly because of a bunion

Usually, your doctor will be able to tell you if you have a bunion after conducting a simple assessment. They'll look at your feet and toes and watch you walk.

An X-ray can show the level of deformity.

Common treatments for bunions

Your GP may refer you to a podiatrist to give you advice on how to manage your bunions. If you have bunion pain, this can be eased by:

  • Ice packs
  • Losing weight
  • Taking over the counter painkillers (such as paracetamol and ibuprofen)
  • Using bunion pads to stop shoes rubbing
  • Using insoles or bunion correctors (splints)
  • Wearing flat, wide, well-fitting shoes

The only way to get rid of bunions is by surgery, called an osteotomy or bunionectomy. Bunion surgery can involve removing, realigning and pinning of your bones to:

  • Correct the deformity
  • Narrow your foot
  • Straighten your toes