A Pain in the Bunion...

Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.

A bunion is a bony enlargement of the big toe joint (medically called the first metatarsophalangeal joint). A bunion forces the big toe to angle toward the other toes. This can be a source of significant discomfort and pain. The abnormal position of the big toe caused by a bunion is termed hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus (HAV).

Bunions form slowly over the years because of stress or injury to the foot. They are frequently from wearing shoes that are too tight. Poorly fitting shoes can alter foot motion and put pressure on the foot and toes.

Bunions can also be due to inherited foot deformities or neuromuscular conditions such as cerebral palsy that can affect foot motion and positioning. Arthritis may also destroy the cartilage layer in the toe joint and promote bunion formation.