Developing bunions is very painful as they change the shape of your foot. Painful feet affect you every time you stand, walk or run, so bunions can seriously limit your quality of life. Any foot pain needs prompt referral to a doctor.
Bunions result in the big toe pushing against the second toe. This may cause all of the other toes on that foot to be pushed out of line. A lump can then form on the edge of the big toe, which may then grow larger and fill with fluid. Bunions may develop in teenagers as well as the middle-aged and elderly, so good fitting footwear is a must at all times.
Bunions are caused by pressure from narrow toed shoes, which push the toes out of alignment. However, they may also be from abnormal bones in your feet. Women are more likely to develop bunions and if your mother or grandparents had bunions then you are more likely to develop them too.
Bunions may occur in one or both feet and are aggravated by poorly fitting footwear – especially occupations that put pressure on the feet, such as ballet dancing. As your toes are pushed out of alignment, corns and callous can also develop. Eventually, if your feet continue to have undue pressure squashing them together, toes may overlap each other or form hammertoes (the front of the foot starts to resemble a claw shape).
Immediate treatment for bunion pain is to remove any constricting footwear as soon as possible, apply cool cloths or soak the feet in cool water to help ease the pain. Check the surrounding skin and under the toes to see if broken skin, sores or corns are developing. Broken skin may result in an infection and is best treated as soon as possible. Pain relieving medication generally helps ease the pain if taken regularly and at suitable doses, but should not be used to allow you to continue wearing footwear that causes the discomfort.
Severe and acutely painful bunions may need surgery to realign the toes and to reshape the affected joint. This usually limits but does not cure the pain in all cases. There is a risk of bunions returning after surgical removal if the cause of the bunion is not addressed.
See your community pharmacist about treating and easing bunion pain, or if you think you may be developing a bunion. They have products and advice that can assist with preventing undue pressure on the bones of the feet and toes, and can help you with care of your feet when you have a bunion. It may be helpful to use special padding or inserts purchased from your pharmacy as they can help to stabilise joints that may be starting to develop bunions.
Your pharmacist can also advise you if you need to see your doctor or a podiatrist, if you have any other condition affecting your feet, or if your ability to carry out normal activities is limited.