Bunions (Hallux Valgus)
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
- Bunions facts
- What are bunions?
- What are the causes of bunions?
- Who develops bunions?
- What are symptoms and signs of a bunion?
- How is a bunion diagnosed?
- How are bunions treated? Are there home remedies to treat bunions?
- Can bunions be prevented?
- What is the prognosis of a bunion?
- Find a local Orthopedic Surgeon in your town
- Bunions involve boney prominences and repositioning of the joints at the base of the big toes.
- Bunions most commonly affect the inner foot at the base of the big toe but also can affect the outside of the foot at the base of the little toe, referred to as a bunionette or tailor's bunion.
- Bunions most commonly affect women.
- Bunions may or may not cause symptoms.
- Treatment of bunions can include rest, icing, alteration offootwear, foot supports (orthotics), medications, steroid injections, and/or surgery.
What are bunions?
The common bunion is a localized area of enlargement of the inner portion of the joint at the base of the big toe. The enlargement actually represents a misalignment of the big toe joint (metatarsal phalangeal joint) and, in some cases, additional bone formation. The misalignment causes the big toe to point outward (medically termed hallux valgus deformity) toward the smaller toes. This deformity is progressive and will increase with time. The enlarged joint at the base of the big toe (the first metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTP joint) can become inflamed with redness, tenderness, and pain. A small fluid-filled sac (bursa) adjacent to the joint can also become inflamed (bursitis), leading to additional swelling, redness, and pain. A more deep joint pain may occur as localized arthritis develops in later stages of the deformity.
A less common bunion is located at the joint at the base of the smallest (fifth) toe. This bunion is sometimes referred to as a tailor's bunion or bunionette.
What are the causes of bunions?
While the precise cause is not known, there seem to be inherited (genetic) factors that lead to abnormal foot function like overpronation that can predispose to the development of bunions. This is especially common when bunions occur in younger individuals. This abnormal biomechanics can lead to instability of the metatarsal phalangeal joint and muscle imbalance resulting in the deformity.
Although shoe gear doesn't directly cause a bunion, it can certainly make the bunion painful and swollen. Other less common causes of bunion deformities include trauma (sprains, fractures, and nerve injuries), neuromuscular disorders (polio or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease) and limb-length discrepancies (one leg shorter than the other) where the longer leg develops the bunion.
Next: Who develops bunions?
Find out what women really need.