All Your Bunion Questions, Answered - Interview of Dr. Ragland

Read up on the best bunion treatment options and what causes them in the first place! By Renee Cherry 

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What Is a Bunion?

Bunions are pretty recognizable — a bump forms by the base of your big toe on the inner edge your foot, and your big toe angles in toward your other toes. "A bunion develops because of a pressure imbalance in your foot, which makes your toe joint unstable," explains Yolanda Ragland, D.P.M., podiatrist and founder of Fix Your Feet. "The bones of your big toe begin to shift and angle toward your second toe. Constant pressure causes the head of your metatarsal (the bone at the base of your toe) to become irritated, and it gradually enlarges, forming a bump." 

Bunions aren't just an aesthetic thing; they can also be uncomfortable and even super painful. "You may experience pain, swelling, and redness around the affected joint," says Ragland. "The skin may thicken and become calloused, and your big toe may angle inward, which can bully the lesser toes, affecting them as well. The big toe may even overlap or tuck under your other toes, resulting in corns or calluses."

What Causes Bunions?

As mentioned, bunions are caused by a pressure imbalance in the foot. Research suggest that, in a foot with bunions, there's a transfer in pressure from the big toe to the other toes, which over time can push the bones in the joint at the base of the big toe out of alignment, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This joint then gets larger and protrudes from the inside of the forefoot, often becoming inflamed.
In addition to shoe choice, pregnancy can play a role. When you become pregnant, your levels of a hormone called relaxin increase, according to Ragland. "Relaxin renders the ligaments and tendons more flexible, so the bones they are supposed to stabilize become vulnerable to displacement," she says. And so that sideward lean of your big toe can become even more pronounced.
When it comes to shoes, try to limit your wear time of heels and completely flat shoes, which can both aggravate bunions, suggests Ragland...
Big thanks to Renee Cherry for including Dr. Ragland in this story!