Not to be confused with Paul Bunyan of lumberjack fame, or John Bunyan who chronicled The Pilgrim’s Progress, a bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe. Seems pretty insignificant compared to folklore heroes and famous authors, but it can cause a lot of discomfort, annoyance and embarrassment, and it’s something to get checked out if it is affecting your normal lifestyle and activity.

How They Form

Bunions are caused when the end of your big toe presses against your other toes and forces the joint at the base of your toe outwards. Over time, the joint becomes more and more deformed and the bump on the side of your foot gets bigger and bigger. At first it may not be painful, but the worse it becomes, the more likely it is that your joint will begin to ache, and the bump may become red or swollen where it rubs against your shoes.

Why does this happen? Heredity is typically the underlying cause, but a common agitator is your shoes. Whenever you stuff your toes into footwear that doesn’t have enough room for them (think pointed toes), or you shove them forward into the shoe (think high heels), you run the risk of this condition worsening. Diseases like arthritis can also make you more prone to this deformity.

How to Deal with Bunions

Unfortunately, these protrusions won’t go away by themselves, but there are several things you can do to keep them from getting worse. The first is to change your shoes. The toe boxes of your footwear should be wide enough to allow your toes to move freely and not put pressure on them. Heels should be less than 2 inches, so that your feet are not being forced forward against the front of your footgear. Drs. David Guhl and Amy Miller-Guhl can show you how to use padding and taping to support and protect your foot, and may prescribe a pain reliever if the discomfort is not bearable. They can also evaluate your feet and your walking gait to see if there may be a problem with your foot structure that is contributing to the deformity. In these cases, custom orthotic inserts can often correct the conditions that are causing the toe to become misaligned.

As a last resort, surgery may be required to correct severe cases that are preventing you from enjoying a normal, pain-free lifestyle. During surgery, swollen tissue may be removed, as well as part of the bone, so that your big toe can be realigned into its proper position and fixed in place. Because every case is different, various types of procedures may be used. Surgery always has risks, and you will need to stay off your foot for a while as it heals.

We Can Help

The podiatrists at Waukesha Foot Specialists are eager to help you gain and maintain good foot health. If you notice a bump forming on the side of your big toe, call us at (262) 544-0700 to set up a consultation. The earlier you seek help, the better the chance that non-surgical treatment will relieve your symptoms and you can get back to normal activity again. You can also request an appointment online.