This post was last updated on August 23, 2016

Do you avoid sporting open-toed shoes and sandals because of unsightly and embarrassing bunions? You’re certainly not alone.

Bunions are a common, manageable, and even preventable condition, said Stephen F. Conti, MD, of the UPMC Foot and Ankle Center.

Learn more about your bunion risk factors, as well as symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What Are Bunions?

Bunion, also known as hallux valgus deformity, are a common foot deformity that cause inflammation of metatarsophalangeal joint, which connects your big toe to your foot.

This inflammation is caused when the big toe is misaligned with the first metatarsal. It can cause a great deal of pain while walking or even wearing shoes.

“The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates that more than half of the women in the United States develop bunions at some point in their life,” says Dr. Conti. “In fact, women are nine times more likely than men to develop this joint inflammation.”

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What Causes Bunions?

Additional factors that can also cause bunions include:

  • Individual foot type
  • Foot injuries
  • Congenital deformities
  • Hereditary risk

Symptoms of Bunions

Bunion symptoms and pain can intensify as the condition progresses. Common symptoms may include:

Bunion Diagnosis

Diagnosis of bunions typically comes after an orthopaedic evaluation of the following three areas:

  • Your medical history
  • A physical examination
  • X-ray results

These three components aim to assess the scope of your misalignment, and also determine any circulatory or nerve conditions that are potentially causing your bunion.

Complications of Bunions

Stretching of the ligaments around the big toe joint, often from pressure of narrow shoes, may cause the big toe to point toward the second toe. This often creates a painful bump on the inside edge of the toe, and in some cases, the big toe will move under the second toe. Often times, the added pressure will make the second toe move out of position; even into the third toe. As bunions advance, the positioning of the foot as a whole may appear extreme in deformity. Because of this altered positioning, wearing shoes may become difficult.

Over time, arthritis will often develop. The repeated strain on the metatarsophalangeal joint and related toe positioning makes walking quite difficult and painful.

How to Get Rid of Bunions

Bunion treatment without surgery

Nonsurgical ways to care for existing bunions and relieve pain include:

  • Choosing wide-width shoes
  • Adding foam or felt padding in shoes to separate toes
  • Wearing shoes with holes in the toe area around the home

If nonsurgical changes to your footwear prove ineffective in treating your bunions, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure.

Bunionectomy surgery and other procedures

Some common surgical treatment options for bunions include:

  • Big toe tendon and ligament repair
  • Arthrodesis
  • Osteotomy
  • Exostectomy

“Bunions initially start out as a cosmetic issue that may also cause difficulty wearing shoes,” says Dr. Conti.

“Left untreated, however, the big toe joint gets progressively arthritic. Surgery to realign the toe will offer improved results if performed early enough before arthritis sets in,” he says.

It’s important to remember that surgical correction of bunions will not allow you to wear a smaller shoe size or even continue wearing narrow-width shoes. Wearing constricting footwear can cause bunions to return and even get worse.

After your bunion surgery, you will be required to regularly check in with your surgeon to monitor your feet. Bunion surgery recovery time typically takes about six to eight weeks to fully recover. Your doctor may also recommend that you walk with a cane or crutches. Some patients may experience minor swelling of the feet for up to one year after surgery.

Whether you have a new injury, or symptoms that include chronic foot pain, ankle pain, heel pain, swelling, or limited movement, our skilled foot and ankle surgeons offer comprehensive treatment options to help you find relief. Learn more at UPMC.com/FootAndAnkle or call 844-ANKFOOT.



About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.