Bunions (Hallux Valgus)

  • Medical Author:
    Philip A. Radovic, DPM, FACFAS

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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How do health-care professionals diagnose a bunion?

A physician will consider a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position (weight-bearing).

What is the treatment for bunions? Are there home remedies to treat bunions?

Nonsurgical treatments such as rest and wearing loose (wider) shoes or sandals (preferably with a supportive sole) can often relieve the irritating pain of bunions. Walking shoes may have some advantages, for example, over high-heeled styles that pressure the sides of the foot.

Anti-inflammatory medications, such as acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin, Ecotrin), ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever), and naproxen (Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn, Aleve), can help to ease inflammation, as well as pain. Local cold-pack application is sometimes helpful, as well.

Bunion shields or pads can reduce pressure on the bunion. Depending on the structure of the foot and severity of the bunion, custom insole orthotics can slow the progression of the bunion and address underlying biomechanical causes such as overpronation.

Inflammation of the joint at the base of the big toe can often be relieved by a local injection of cortisone.

Constant pressure or friction can lead to skin breakdown and infection that may require antibiotic therapy.

When the measures above are effective in relieving symptoms, patients should avoid irritating the bunion again by optimizing footwear and foot care.

For those whose bunions cause persisting pain, a surgical operation is considered for correction of the bunion. The surgical operation to correct a bunion is referred to as a bunionectomy. Surgical procedures can correct deformity and relieve pain, leading to improved foot function. These procedures typically involve removing bony growth of the bunion while realigning the big toe joint. Surgery is often, but not always, successful; failure to relieve pain can result from the big toe moving back to its previous deviated position even after surgery. However, proper footwear and orthotics can reduce the chances of surgical failure.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/24/2016
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