A bunion is a progressive dislocation of the big toe joint.  The joint becomes enlarged and the big toe drifts towards the other toes.  This puts pressure on the toe joint, pushing it outward beyond the normal profile of the foot; thus resulting in pain and the bump we associate with a bunion.

What Causes a Bunion?
It is a common misconception that bunions are caused by ill-fitting shoes.  Tight shoes can certainly aggravate the symptoms, but bunions are most often caused by a genetic predisposition in the mechanical structure of the foot.  Some people are born with a flat foot or a high arched foot; these are the people that are most prone to bunion problems.
Bunions can also develop as a result of injury, stress on your foot, or medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and neurovascular disease. 

Treatment Options
Initial treatment of bunions should include shoe modification.  A wider, low healed shoe should be worn to reduce the pressure and irritation over the big toe joint.  In addition bunion pads can help to protect the irritated area.  Orthotic devices may also be beneficial to provide adequate support and reduce the abnormal collapsing of the foot.  An anti inflammatory medication may provide some pain relieve.  All these conservative treatments may help to reduce the pain and discomfort of a bunion, but will not correct the condition.

If the pain persists despite initial therapy options, surgical corrections should be discussed with your podiatric physician.  The longer treatment and or surgery are delayed in a symptomatic foot, the more complicated the condition can become.  Patients who have bunions corrected earlier tend to have a more successful outcome.