ZocdocAnswersWhat are the symptoms of a bunion?

Question

What are the symptoms of a bunion?

My mom used to get bunions after walking around in her heels all day. I've recently started experiencing a lot of toe pain, especially around my big toe. Is this a bunion like she used to have? I'm 28 and really enjoy the outdoors so mobility is very important to me.

Answer

Bunions are enlargements of the bone and/or soft tissue at the base of the first joint of the big toe. As you mention, wearing certain kinds of shoes, especially heels, can sometimes aggravate bunions. However, in general it is thought that bunions arise in people who have susceptible anatomy. The feet are composed of a large number of bones, tendons, and ligaments that all have to be in the right position for the foot to work properly. As you can imagine, the more 'moving pieces' involved, the more potential there is for something to be out of alignment in such a way that an injury can develop. In some people, the anatomical alignment of the bones in the area of the the metacarpal-phalangeal joint (the joint where the toe joins the rest of the foot) can be positioned such that a bunion can develop. Some physicians think that bunions can be caused by shoes that don't fit properly, while others believe that footwear only exacerbates the underlying structure of the foot. In either case, the way your foot developed is likely to play a large role in whether you develop bunions over time. If you are starting to have pain in your feet, especially near your big toe, and your mother had problems with bunions, it may be a good idea to see an orthopedist who specializes in the foot/ankle. He or she can do a more thorough exam and--if you are developing bunions--help you manage them early so that you can continue to stay active.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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