Painful, unsightly and irritating, bunions are to be avoided at all costs. But what treatment is available if you do have one and how do you prevent them from reoccurring?

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What is a bunion?

A bunion is a bony bump at the base of the big toe. You’ll know you have a bunion when your big toe points towards the other toes on the same foot, forcing the first metatarsal (foot bone) to stick out. There are other symptoms associated with bunions including pain over your big toe, a bulging bump on the outside of your big toe, and hard red skin on your foot due to the big toe and second toe overlapping.

More women than men get bunions, possibly due to ill-fitting shoes. If you have these symptoms or think you might have a bunion, speak with a GP who might refer you for an X-ray to assess the severity of your bunion.

Why do I have bunions?

It’s not exactly known why people develop bunions but experts believe they may be caused by shoes that don’t fit properly or conditions such as arthritis. They can also run in families. Even children can get bunions, and it’s thought that people with unusually flexible joints are more prone to getting them. In addition, people with jobs that require them to put extra stress on their feet may be more prone to developing bunions.

Can they be treated?

Surgery is the only way to correct a bunion, but non-surgical options are usually the first port of call. The first thing to consider is your choice of shoes – do they fit properly? Do they provide enough support for your foot, and do they give your foot enough room? Other options include:

  • Painkillers to ease the pain of a bunion
  • Bunion pads to prevent the bunion rubbing against your shoe
  • Shoe inserts (orthotics) to help distribute pressure evenly when you walk (available from your local pharmacy)
  • Bunion splints may provide relief; they’re worn over the top of your foot and your big toe to help straighten its alignment
  • Toe spacers may also help to reduce pain

If symptoms are left untreated for a long period of time and symptoms worsen, surgery may be the best option to improve the alignment of your big toe and reduce pain. Bunion surgery is usually a day case and so doesn’t require an overnight stay in hospital. Recovery may take several weeks or even months.

Can I prevent bunions?

Foregoing fashion and wearing shoes that fit properly is the best advice when it comes to avoiding bunions. Although pretty unavoidable, people who don’t wear shoes at all very rarely develop bunions. Avoid high heels or pointy toes to prevent bunions from developing, and ensure you’re wearing shoes that are wide enough for your feet.

Speak with an Irish-registered GP today about your feet and the best options for your health by booking a video consultation with

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