Symptoms and Signs of Bunions

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Bunions

Bunions are localized enlargements of bone and tissue, mainly on the sides and/or top of the joint base of the big toe or the smallest toe (fifth toe bunion is also termed a bunionette). Signs and symptoms of bunions include 

  • local inflammation of the tissues around the joints, 
  • bursitis, swelling, 
  • redness, 
  • pain and 
  • tenderness. 
  • Occasionally, there is numbness and/or tingling. 
  • Most people show an inward displacement of the big toe toward the other toes and/or some deformity of the big toe (termed hallux abducto valgus).

The cause of bunions is strongly related to inherited foot function patterns (biomechanics). Pointed-toe shoes, narrow shoes, and high-heeled shoes put stress and pressure on the tissues of the base of the big toe and little toe and may trigger and/or exacerbate bunions.

What are the treatments for bunions?

Treatments of bunions vary with the severity of the bunion and the pains it may cause. Treatments fall into two categories:

  • Conservative treatments
    • Wear shoes that give a lot of space for your toes
    • Padding – over-the-counter non medicated bunion pads
    • Shoe inserts - over-the-counter or prescription inserts for shoes
    • Medications
    • Ice to decrease pain and swelling (caution – check with your doctor if you have circulation problems)
  • Surgical treatments; options include
    • Remove swollen tissue
    • Removing part of the bone (Big toe)
    • Realignment of the big toe and/or other toes
    • Fusion of affected joints

A podiatrist can help you manage bunion problems.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.