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A bunion is a bony swelling near the base of the big toe. The medical name for a bunion is hallux valgus.
The front part of the foot is made up of five bones called the metatarsals that join with other bones that join the heel bone to the bones inside the toes. Normally, the big toe is in line with the first metatarsal, the second toe with the second metatarsal, and so on.
Sometimes, the big toe can become angled inwards, towards the middle of the foot and the second toe.
This can force the top of the first metatarsal to protrude (stick out) from the side of the foot, at the base of the big toe. If this happens, a painful, swollen bunion forms.
It is not known exactly why bunions occur, but heredity can be involved and this can be aggrevated by wearing badly fitting shoes.
If bunions become worse over time, they can cause other problems, such as arthritis within the big toe joint.

Anyone can develop a bunion, but they tend to affect up to a third more women than men.