Have a bunion and unsure how to treat it?

Should I have my bunion fixed now or do I have to wait a bit longer?

Bunions are a common condition we see at our foot clinics. Studies have shown that about 25-36% of the population have a bunion, with women and elderly people being the most common. Although bunions are common they are a complex in any patient, multiple factors must come together to cause a bunion to form.

Bunions are a progressive condition, they start off small but can enlarge over time. And they can be symptomatic or asymptomatic in people depending on their severity. They can also lead to footwear fitting issues and impact on daily activities due to limited footwear options, and we understand that the appearance of bunions can cause distress in patients and impact on mental wellbeing.

Read more to learn about what causes bunions to develop, symptoms and how we can help you.

what is a bunion?

A bunion is a bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. A bunion is characterised by the big toe pointing outward towards the other smaller toes on the same foot. The Latin name for the deformity is hallux valgus (hallux means big toe, and valgus means turned away from the midline of the body)

The big toe joint is an important joint in the foot and carries a lot of our body weight when moving and as result bunions can be become painful as they progress.

What is a bunion

Did you know you can also get a bunion on the outside of your foot?  This is called “bunionette” or a “tailor’s bunion”.

 

bunion on pinky

symptoms of bunions

Other than its appearance, a bunion can cause the following symptoms:

classification of bunions

Bunions differ in severity and as a result podiatrists use the following scale to classify and describe the severity of bunions:

fett with no deformity

absent

what-causes-bunions

Mild

what-is-bunion

moderate

bunion-treatment

severe

Assess your bunions with the classfication tool above.

First please look at your big left toe whilst standing without shoes and socks on. Ignore the positioning and the gaps between your other toes and try to focus only on your big toe. Select from the pictures above which one best shows the angle of your left big toe. When you are done do the same for your right big toe using the process.

What causes bunions?

Why bunions develop is complex and there is no clear definitive cause. Bunions are a progressive condition and develop against a background of predisposing risk factors, outlined below.

Risk factors

* Bunions do tend in run in families however it’s not that the bunion that is inherited, but rather the foot type. Poor foot mechanics combined with other risk factors increase the chances of developing bunions.

A combination of these factors can affect critical structures that hold the big toe in place, causing them to fail and leading to a bunion forming. This is a progressive condition, therefore years of abnormal pressure on the joint causes the bunion form.

complications of bunions

The big toe joint where a bunion occurs is an important joint in the foot and if destabilised it can lead to the following complications if left untreated:

treatment for bunions

Treatment for bunions varies depending on the severity of the bunion and the symptoms.

home treatment

If your symptoms continue, we recommend seeing a podiatrist. Bunions will worsen over time in both appearance and in the symptoms they cause.

bunion treatment

podiatry treatment

Podiatrists can help by reducing pressure on the joint and slow the progression of your bunion with the following treatments:

toe spacer

orthotic therapy for bunions

Orthotics cannot correct a bunion, but they can help with reducing pain in the big toe joint and slow its progression. Conditions such as flat feet can put more pressure on your bunion and orthotics can redistribute that pressure.

If you are experiencing pain in your joint when walking or exercising, the use of orthotics can be beneficial in reducing symptoms. A custom-made orthotic with specific features can be provide comfort and improve function.

custom made foot orthotics

surgery for bunions

If conservative treatment fails to reduce your symptoms and your bunion is severe, surgery maybe indicated. Surgery is the only way you can correct a bunion deformity and should be considered if you have severe symptoms and your bunion is affecting your quality of life. We never recommend bunion surgery for cosmetic reasons only as bunion surgery is not without its risks.

At our foot clinics we will be able to assess your bunion and provide a referral to a surgeon if needed.

how to prevent bunions

If you have a family history of bunions or starting to develop a bunion here are some things you can do to prevent or slow the progression of bunions:

frequently asked questions

Make sure to wear wide fitting running shoes to make sure there isn’t irritation and stress on the bunion. Wearing orthotics can also be beneficial in reducing symptoms. 

The bunion found on your pinkie toe is called Tailor’s Bunion or Bunionette. 

In mild and initial stages, bunion braces can help reduce symptoms. 

Orthotics help by supporting the foot and reducing excess pressure on the big toe joint, this can help reduce symptoms and slow the progression of bunion development. 

Yes, bunions can lead to ingrown toenails. 

No, bunions do not develop overnight. They are progressive condition that develop over a period of time. 

Yes, narrow fitting shoes can lead to bunions forming in some people.

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