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Quick Facts



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jun 2020| Content last modified Jun 2020
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What is a bunion?

A bunion is a bony bump at the base of your big toe. The bump can be painful.

  • A bunion is really just the end of one of your foot bones

  • The end of the foot bone appears to stick out because your big toe is pushed in

  • Tight or pointy shoes can cause bunions

  • The joint at the base of your big toe can get inflamed and eventually develop arthritis

  • Sometimes, wearing wider shoes or using bunion pads in your shoes is enough to ease the pain

  • If needed, doctors do surgery to reshape or remove some bone


A bunion is a bump at the base of the big toe. A bursa (fluid-filled sac) may develop over the joint and become inflamed and painful (bursitis).


What causes bunions?

A bunion can develop when something forces your big toe in toward your other toes. Causes of bunions include:

  • Rolling your foot in when you walk (overpronation), which is most common if you have flat feet

  • Wearing tight or pointy shoes, particularly with high heels

Once you have a bunion, pressure or stress on it makes it inflamed. Inflammation causes pain and swelling. Eventually you may have permanent pain and swelling (osteoarthritis).

What are the symptoms of a bunion?

Symptoms of bunions include:

  • Pain in your toe joint when wearing narrow or tight shoes

  • Swelling, redness, and warmth

  • Limited motion of the toe joint

How can doctors tell if I have a bunion?

Doctors can usually tell if you have bunions by looking at your feet. They may also:

  • Do x-rays

If doctors aren't sure whether you have another problem such as gout or a joint infection, they may:

  • Take some fluid out of the joint using a needle and send it to a lab for testing

How do doctors treat bunions?

Doctors treat bunions by having you:

  • Wear shoes with a wide toe area

  • Put bunion pads in your shoes

  • Tape your foot

  • Wear special devices in your shoes (orthotics)

  • Take acetaminophen or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen, to relieve pain

If those don’t work, doctors may also:

  • Inject corticosteroids into the bunion

  • Do surgery (bunionectomy)

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