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Signs and Symptoms of a Bunion
In general terms, most people think of bunions as a painful bump on the side of their foot. This is true, in part.
It's a bit confusing, but the word bunion actually refers to three different medical conditions: soft tissue enlargement, hallux abducto valgus and metatarsus primus varus. All three of these problems usually occur together and are what most people think of as a typical "bunion."
Bunions may or may not cause symptoms. A frequent symptom is foot pain in the involved area when walking or wearing shoes that is relieved by resting. A bunion causes enlargement of the base of the big toe and is usually associated with positioning of the big toe toward the smaller toes. This leads to intermittent or chronic pain at the base of the big toe.
Bunions that cause marked pain are often associated with swelling of the soft tissues, redness, and local tenderness.
Signs & Symptoms of "Bunions"
Soft Tissue Enlargement Is Hallmark Sign of a Bunion
The true definition of the word bunion, is an enlargement on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe (hallux). The enlargement is made up of a bursa (fluid-filled sac) under the skin. Technically, the term bunion is just the soft tissue enlargement that occurs.
Additionally you can look for:
- Pain on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint (1st MTPJ)
- Swelling on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint
- Redness on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint
- Numbness or burning in the big toe (hallux)
- Decreased motion at the big toe joint
- Painful bursa (fluid-filled sac) on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint
- Pain while wearing shoes - especially shoes too narrow or with high heels
- Pain during activities
- Corn in between the big toe and second toe
- Callous formation on the side or bottom of the big toe or big toe joint
- Callous under the second toe joint (2nd MTPJ)
- Pain in the second toe joint
Two Other Conditions Often Affect Bunions, Too
The soft tissue enlargement usually occurs because of two structural deformities in the foot bones, called "hallux abducto valgus" (HAV) and "metatarsus primus varus (MPV).
HAV is a fancy way of saying that your big toe (hallux) is rotated and leaning toward your other toes. Sometimes the deformity becomes really severe and the big toe can either sit on top or underneath your second toe.
The other condition, metatarsus primus varus, involves the first metatarsal becoming rotated and leaning too far toward your other foot. The hard bone you feel when you touch the bunion (the side of your big toe joint) is the head of the first metatarsal that has shifted out of position.
Bunions are usually termed mild, moderate or severe. Just because you have a bunion does not mean you have to have pain. There are some people with very severe bunions and no pain and people with mild bunions and a lot of pain.