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Bunions - How do doctors diagnose bunions?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If your doctor thinks you may have a bunion, they will examine your feet and ask you some questions. And your doctor may suggest an x-ray to see the bones inside your feet.

Bunions usually get worse if you don't treat them. That's why it's important to get a diagnosis. See your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

  • You have a bump on your big toe joint that hurts.

  • You have trouble walking.

  • Your big toe or foot isn't moving as it should.

  • You have a hard time finding shoes that fit because of the bump.

Doctors can usually diagnose a bunion just by looking at it.[8] Your doctor will check to see if your big toe joint is red or swollen. And they will ask you to move your big toe up and down to see if it's stiff. Your doctor will also ask you questions, such as:

  • Does your toe or foot hurt?

  • When did your foot problem start?

  • What type of shoes do you wear?

  • Does anyone in your family have bunions?

  • Have you ever injured your foot?

  • Do any of your other joints hurt?

This helps doctors work out if you have any of the things that make you more likely to get bunions. Your doctor will check the shape of your foot and how you walk too. These things can also affect your chances of bunions.

Different sorts of health professionals are trained to diagnose and treat bunions. Your GP may refer you to one of these:

  • A medical doctor who specialises in joint problems and does operations. This person is called an orthopaedic surgeon.

  • A health professional who is specially trained in caring for feet. This person is called a podiatrist (or sometimes a chiropodist). Podiatrists are not medical doctors. But they do have special training in foot and ankle problems, including bunions. Podiatrists can order tests and x-rays, and may be able to recommend treatments, such as insoles for your shoes. And some podiatrists can do bunion operations.

In the UK, all podiatrists and chiropodists who work in the NHS must be specially trained and registered with the Health Professionals Council. If you want to see a podiatrist privately, check if they have the right training to treat you. You can do this by seeing if the podiatrist is registered with the Health Professions Council at

Last Updated: January 19, 2011
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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