Your foot has 26 small bones, all of which sit in delicate alignment. Over time, these bones can occasionally shift, causing pain that gradually gets worse. There are several different conditions someone can develop in their foot, but one of the most common is a bony bump on the side of your big toe—a bunion.
Bunions are relatively common, but the causes, symptoms, and treatment options can get complex. If you suspect you have a bunion, you'll want to schedule an appointment at Shendanoh Podiatry to discuss how to address the issue and get you back on your feet.
What Is a Bunion?
In particular, one foot bone is prone to shift more often than others, the metatarsal. When the metatarsal shifts, it pushes other bones out of their proper place and causes your big toe to shift towards your other toes. This in turn forces the joint on the outside of your toe to shift outward, producing a bony bump called a bunion.
It is less common, but it’s worth noting that bunions can occur on the other side of your foot when your smallest toe is the one out of line. This is referred to as a bunionette, or a tailor’s bunion.
Signs of Bunions
The most obvious sign of a bunion is the bony protrusion on the outside of your foot. But a bunion physically sticking out is actually one of the later symptoms. If you’re concerned you might have a bunion but you don’t see anything, there are some signs to look for.
- Pain. Whether it comes and goes depending on how active you are or whether it’s present all the time, pain on the outside of your big toe is an early indicator of a bunion.
- Reduced metatarsophalangeal joint mobility. The metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ) is the point where your big toe attaches to the rest of your foot. Since that bone being out of alignment is what causes a bunion, you may notice reduced movement in your big toe.
- Swelling and soreness. When the bones of your foot aren’t where they should be, the friction from movement will cause the area to become swollen and sore.
- Skin irritation. The bones in your feet are constantly moving, so if something isn’t lined up properly, you’ll notice. Before you see a bunion, you may see a corn, callus, or some other skin irritations where your toes are touching or where the bunion is rubbing against your shoes.
- Trouble wearing shoes. As a bunion grows, you’ll probably feel pain from wearing a shoe before noticing anything else. If you feel pain specifically on the side of your big toe in shoes that haven’t given you any trouble before, you may have a bunion.
Causes of Bunions
The exact cause of a bunion is a source of disagreement among doctors. But what is clear is that it’s primarily linked to a few factors.
The Factors That Lead to Bunions
- Genetics. Foot shape is inherited, and some shapes simply put more strain on the front of the foot than others, leading to bunions. If your parents or grandparents had bunions, you’re at risk too.
- Wearing high heels. Women have a much higher risk than men of developing a bunion. In fact, an estimated 90% of people who suffer from bunions are female. What’s the cause of the gender gap? Most podiatrists think it’s high heels or other shoes that contort the foot into an unnatural, crowded shape. Shoes that force weight to the front of the foot can accelerate a bunion’s growth if you already have one or even cause a new one to form.
- Injuries or overuse. If you suffer an injury to the front of your foot or suddenly develop an intense exercise routine, the area around the bottom of your big toe can get destabilized, increasing the potential for a bunion to develop.
Shenandoah Podiatry Offers Bunion Treatment in Roanoke
Even if your bunion isn’t causing any problems with your day-to-day life, you need to visit a podiatrist if you begin seeing signs of one. Like many other skin and nail conditions, bunions do not get better with time, so you can’t ignore them and hope it gets better. You don’t want to wait until you’re in pain to start getting treatment.
When it comes to treatment, surgery is the only way to truly make a bunion go away. At Shenandoah Podiatry, we understand that’s an intimidating option for people, so we can utilize several other methods to help lessen the impact it has on your life—like finding an orthotic insert that better supports your feet, helping you find better-fitting shoes or developing a different fitness routine.
Should you decide you want surgery, though, our experienced staff is more than capable of discussing that option with you. If you’re ready to reclaim your foot health, call our Roanoke office at 540-904-1458 or use our online contact form to get in touch.