It’s a bony bump that juts out at the base of the big toe. Doctors refer to it as hallux valgus, but it’s better known as a bunion.
A bunion makes the big toe joint stick out to the side, forcing the big toe to curve in closer to the other toes.
Women are 2 to 3 times as likely as men to have bunions, often developing them from wearing shoes that do not fit correctly (especially high heels, shoes with pointed toes, or shoes with narrow toe boxes). For other people, bunions are caused by factors beyond their control. These can include:
- a family history of a foot type that is susceptible to bunions
- neuromuscular disorders
- conditions affecting the joints (e.g., arthritis)
- severe injury to the foot
- deformities at birth
- problems that affect the way a person walks (e.g., rolling in at the ankles)
At first, bunions may cause no pain. But as the big toe begins to turn in towards the other toes, there will usually be redness, pain, swelling, and tenderness in the area around the joint. Pressure inside the joint or from footwear pressing against the bunion may also cause discomfort. As the affected toe curves closer to the other toes on the foot, these toes can become painful as well.
Complications of bunions may include corns, calluses, hammer toes, and ingrown toenails. Other complications include irritation of the nerves surrounding the bunion area. Excess rubbing of the bunion against the footwear may lead to changes in the skin, resulting in corns or calluses. Hammer toe is a deformity of the toe immediately next to the big toe. A hammer toe is slightly raised and points upwards from the base and downwards at the end of the toe. Ingrown toenails can result from increased pressure from the big toe on the other toes.