Continual pressure on the joint at the big toe's base, commonly referred to as the metatarsophalangeal joint, causes bunions, explains the American Podiatric Medical Association. Over time, the big toe folds over the second toe, and the joint becomes misaligned, resulting in a lump at the toe base.
In addition to a lump or swelling at the base of the big toe, bunions also cause symptoms that include inflamed, thick skin on the inside of the first toe and toe joint pain that worsens with additional pressure, according to MedlinePlus. While both men and women can develop bunions, the condition tends to be more common in women. High-heeled shoes with constricted toe compartments and abnormal foot bones may also put individuals at risk for bunions.
Non-surgical treatment options for bunions include padding the affected areas, over-the-counter pain-relieving medications and ice therapy, explains Foot Health Facts. Sufferers may also find relief by wearing shoes with widened toe compartments. In rare cases, doctors may recommend corticosteroid injections to minimize inflammation of the fluid-filled sac that protects the big toe joint. If non-surgical treatments are not effective or the condition causes significant pain, surgery to remove the bunions or repair the misaligned toe bones may be recommended.