A bunion is a very common foot deformity that develops over the first metatarsal phalageal joint of the big toe of the foot. The joint that joins the big toe to the foot is called the first MTP joint. When it becomes prominent and the big toe starts to become crooked this is known as a bunion. The term referring to deformity of the big toe as it becomes crooked is called Hallux Valgus. It is the bump itself that is known as the bunion. When it gets red and swollen over the bunion because it gets sore this is usually due to an inflamed soft tissue over the underlying bone.
The commonest cause of bunions is prolonged wearing of poorly designed shoes such as the narrow high heels that women wear. This is one of the reasons why bunions are much more common in women than in men. There is also a hereditary component to bunions in that many times we will see a grandmother, mother and daughter all with various stages of bunions. 38% of women in the United States wear shoes that are too small and 55% of women have some degree of bunion formation. Bunions are 9 times more common in women than they are in men.
Left untreated bunions will gradually become worse especially if women continue to wear the narrow pointed shoes. Not all bunions progress because if the patient starts wearing good shoewear and they are caught early enough they may not get any worse. In general however, they will certainly not get any better no matter how they are treated. We generally reserve surgical treatment for bunions that are painful. If they are not painful they should simply be observed and shoewear modified. Occasionally the patient will want the bunion corrected for cosmetic reasons.