If the joint that connects your big toe to your foot has a swollen, sore bump, you may have a bunion. More than one-third of women in America have bunions, a common deformity often blamed on wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels.

Bunions may occur in families, but many are from wearing tight shoes, and nine out of 10 bunions happen to women. Shoes that are too tight can also cause other disabling foot problems, such as corns, calluses, and hammertoe.

With a bunion, the base of your big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint) gets larger and sticks out. The skin over it may be red and tender, and wearing any type of shoe may be painful. This joint flexes with every step you take, so the bigger your bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Bursitis (painful swelling) may set in. Your big toe may angle toward your second toe or move all the way under it.

In addition, the skin on the bottom of your foot may become thicker and painful. Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping your third toe. An advanced bunion may make your foot look deformed. If your bunion gets too severe, it may be difficult to walk. Your pain may become chronic and you may develop arthritis.

Adolescent Bunion

Your young teenager (especially girls age 10 to 15) may develop an adolescent bunion at the base of his or her big toe. Unlike adults with bunions, a young person can normally move the affected joint. Your teenager may have pain and trouble wearing shoes. Try having your child's shoes stretched and/or getting wider shoes. Surgery to remove an adolescent bunion is not recommended unless your child is in extreme pain and the problem does not get better with changes in shoewear. If your adolescent has bunion surgery, particularly before he or she is fully grown, there is a strong chance the problem will return.

Bunionette

If you have a painful swollen lump on the outside of your foot near the base of your little toe, it may be a bunionette (tailor's bunion). You may also have a hard corn and painful bursitis in the same spot. A bunionette is very much like a bunion. Wearing shoes that are too tight may cause it. Get shoes that fit comfortably with a soft upper and a roomy toe box. In cases of persistent pain or severe deformity, surgical correction may be necessary.

For treatment options for bunions, please visit our Foot and Ankle Center.

*Source:  American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society® http://www.aofas.org