Bunion or Not? How to Know What’s Wrong With Your Toe

Patients frequently seek bunion surgery in Brooklyn because they think they have a bunion on their toe. In some cases, they are right, and they need to have the bunion removed to alleviate the pain and return normal function to the foot. In some cases, however, they have misdiagnosed their own condition. This is why you should always seek an appointment with a podiatrist or foot surgeon in Brooklyn who is familiar with all types of abnormalities of the feet and toes to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Is It a Bunion?

A bunion forms when the bones at the base of the big toe are misaligned, causing the joint to turn inward. The metatarsal joint then shoves outward, creating what looks like a knot on the outside of the toe. This may be genetic or caused by an injury. Poorly fitting shoes can make this worse. In the early stages, a bunion may not be painful, but it can become swollen, irritated, and red. Some patients develop hammertoes, pinched nerves, and debilitating pain that prevents comfortable movement. A bunion surgeon in Brooklyn can help you determine whether surgery is needed to alleviate the pain and remove the painful joint malformation.

Is It Something Else?

Your NYC podiatrist may examine your foot and determine you don’t have a bunion. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a treatable condition. Other painful conditions can be helped with proper medical care.


Bursitis results from the bursae (small, fluid-filled sacs) cushioning the muscles, tendons, and bones around your joints becoming inflamed. This often happens at the base of the toe when it is repeatedly irritated. It is often mistaken for a bunion because it is painful, swollen, and red. You may be able to tell the difference by pressing on the area. While a bunion is bony and hard, bursitis will be fleshier and have some give to it because the bursae are sacs of fluid. Bursitis can usually be resolved without resorting to bunion surgery in Brooklyn.


This form of arthritis is the build-up of uric acid on the blood, which leads to the formation of painful crystals in the joints. In the toes, this is often mistaken for a bunion because it causes painful swelling of the big toe. However, it is usually much more intense and usually strikes people who eat a diet high in shellfish, red meat, and foods rich in uric acid. Patients with kidney disease are also susceptible to gout. Prescription medication is currently the only way to keep gout under control, along with OTC pain relievers for the discomfort.


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory joint disease that can affect not only the big toe but other joints of the body. It usually starts in the feet or hands and is often easier to distinguish from gout because it will affect more bones in the feet or toes.  However, many people who have RA of the feet end up developing bunions because the erosion of the toe joints leads to shifting of the joints, which causes bunions. If you have rheumatoid arthritis in your toe joints, your podiatrist may refer you to a bunion surgeon in Brooklyn if you develop bunions due to your RA.


Another form of arthritis, osteoarthritis is caused by simple wear and tear to the joint. Individuals sometimes develop a bump on the outside of the big toe that resembles a bunion when the bones in the toe joint develop a bone spur caused by the bones rubbing together as cartilage erodes in the joint. In rare cases, osteoarthritis can lead to a dorsal bunion, which develops on top of the base of the toe joint. A bunion surgeon in Brooklyn can remove this form of a bunion as well as the more common form of a bunion.

Ganglion Cyst

A ganglion cyst is a bump on your big toe that disappears when you press on it. This cyst is a fluid-filled sac (sort of like bursitis) that usually develops at the site of an injury or past trauma. Sometimes these spontaneously go away over time. If the cyst doesn’t go away, you can have it drained or removed. If it doesn’t bother you and isn’t large enough to interfere with daily activities, it is safe to leave a cyst where it is.

If you aren’t sure whether you have a bunion or something else on your toe, it’s essential to see a podiatrist as soon as possible. At Best Foot Doctor NY, we regularly perform bunion surgery in Brooklyn to relieve our patients’ foot pain and ensure their feet are healthy and able to support them properly. Call today at 718-873-3174 to schedule an appointment with Dr. E, a bunion doctor in Brooklyn to find out if your foot pain is caused by a bunion or other conditions that can be treated in our New York offices.

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