What Is a Bunion?

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint connecting the big toe to the foot, explains the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. The joint sticks out as it becomes larger, sometimes causing the big toe to turn toward the other toes. The skin over the joint may appear red and feel tender.

Bunions are often painful due to the amount of body weight pressing on the joint with each step, notes the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. The pain often increases as the bunion gets larger. Shoes add to the pressure and friction, sometimes resulting in calluses on the foot. Bursitis, a condition that causes painful swelling, sometimes occurs with bunions.

Bunions often run in families or develop due to poor foot structure, states WebMD. Tight or ill-fitting shoes are another cause of bunions. High-heeled or pointed shoes in particular are often to blame, making women much more likely to develop bunions. The tightness of the shoe causes the bones to change in shape.

Surgery is not usually required to treat bunions, says the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Loose-fitting shoes and pads to cushion painful areas often relieve the pain. For severe bunions that cause extreme pain or difficulty walking, surgery to realign bones, tendons, ligaments and nerves is an option. The surgery doesn't typically require a hospital stay, but the recovery period is usually three to six months.