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Bone, Muscle, and Joint Problems

Bunions and Hammer Toes

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe. A bunion develops when the big toe bends toward and sometimes overlaps the second toe. A hammer toe is a toe that bends up permanently at the middle joint. These foot problems sometimes run in families. Both conditions are usually irritated by wearing shoes that are too short or narrow.


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Wear shoes with low or flat heels and roomy toe areas. Tennis or basketball court shoes are often best.

A bunion is a swelling caused by a misshapen joint at the base of the big toe.

A hammer toe is a toe that bends up permanently at the middle joint.

Make sure that your shoes fit properly. Tight or high-heeled shoes increase the risk of bunions and hammer toes and irritate the affected joint once a problem has already developed.

Home Treatment

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Once you have a bunion or hammer toe, there is usually no way to completely get rid of it. Home Treatment will help relieve discomfort and keep the problem from getting worse.

  • Wear low-heeled shoes that have roomy toe areas.

  • Cushion the bunion or hammer toe with moleskin or doughnut-shaped pads to prevent rubbing and irritation.

  • Cut out the area over the bunion or hammer toe from an old pair of shoes, and wear them around the house. Or wear comfortable sandals that don't press on the area.

  • Try aspirin, ibuprofen, or aceta-minophen to relieve pain. Ice or cold packs may also help.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If severe pain in the big toe comes on suddenly and you have not been diagnosed with gout.

  • If your big toe starts to overlap your second toe.

  • If you have diabetes, poor circulation, or peripheral vascular disease. In people with these conditions, irritated skin over a bunion or hammer toe can easily become infected.

  • If pain does not respond to Home Treatment in 2 to 3 weeks.

    If severe pain interferes with walking or daily activities, you may want to consider surgical treatment. Surgery may not cure the problem completely. The more information you gather about the risks and benefits of surgery for bunions and hammer toes, the easier it will be for you to make a wise health decision.


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