By Daniel Wieking, MD

bunnionQ. I have a bump near my big toe joint. What is it, and what should I do about it?

A. You most likely have a bunion. That’s a bony hump that forms on the inside part of the big toe where it meets the foot bone. Sometimes this causes the big toe to turn toward or overlap the second toe. Bunions might create pain or tenderness, or they may not hurt at all. They can also lead to red or irritated skin covering the joint.

Bunions are usually a combination of enlarged bone and inflammation around the joint. They can be aggravated by wearing tight or pointed shoes, or if your foot rolls inward too much when you walk, called pronation. However, most bunions are genetic. You may be more prone to developing them if you inherited a certain foot shape, flat feet, or a weak foot structure. All of these factors place too much pressure on the big toe joint, which over time can force it out of alignment.

A bunion should not pose any immediate risk to your health as long as it doesn’t bother you.

If you simply don’t like the way it looks, you can help reduce the lump by wearing wider shoes and over-the-counter foot pads. Full-length or custom orthotics are not usually necessary for bunions.

However, if your bunion becomes increasingly painful or hinders your activities, talk to your doctor. He or she can take X-rays and rule out other problems such as gout or infection.

Your doctor can also refer you to a foot specialist to discuss surgery options.