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What is a bunion?

A bunion is a deformity affecting the main joint of the big toe. A bony lump appears and the big toe tilts towards the second toe. Bunions are a common problem. They tend to run in families and are more frequent in women.

What are the symptoms of a bunion?

Some people never experience any pain, others may suffer for years with bunions. The skin over the bony lump can be red, swollen and tender. Wearing shoes can be painful, especially high heels or shoes that do not fit properly. The big toe position can worsen over time, affecting the smaller toes. The second toe can become ‘clawed’ or cross over the big toe.

How is a diagnosis of a bunion made?

A diagnosis of a bunion is made on your symptoms, clinical examination and foot X-rays.

What are the available treatments for bunions?

In the first instance simple treatment measures are recommended to try and reduce your symptoms. These can have significant benefit and help avoid having surgery, which include: wearing wide shoes with a low heel and soft sole, bunion pads (soft pads put in shoes that stop them rubbing on a bunion), bunion splints, arch supports (insoles), simple pain killers (paracetamol and ibuprofen) and weight lose if overweight.

Surgery is the only way to get rid of the bunion. However surgery for bunions is only recommended as a last resort, once all simple treatment measures have been exhausted and if your symptoms remain significant. It is not recommended for cosmetic reasons or to avoid problems that are not yet present.

Wellbeing Advice

Patients that have a healthy diet, take regular exercise and refrain from smoking prior to surgery are more likely to experience quicker and better recovery with a more successful outcome from their surgery.

If you have any concerns about your general health and well being (diet, exercise, smoking cessation) you are encouraged to discuss this with your GP, who will be able to provide advise on the options available to you.