A bump on your big toe is often accompanied by pain. You want relief, so you want to know what’s causing the problem.
While it’s important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis, here are some possibilities that may be at the root of your big toe bump:
- bone spur
- rheumatoid nodules
Keep reading to learn more about these conditions and how to treat them.
A bone spur, also known as an osteophyte, is a smooth outgrowth from a bone. Typically, it takes a long period of time to develop.
The most common cause of bone spurs is osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis is caused by joint damage over time. It most often occurs in older adults.
Although bone spurs do not always have to be treated, sometimes they cause loss of motion or pain in a joint.
If you have a bone spur on your big toe and it’s limiting the use of the joint or causing pain, talk with your doctor about treatment options.
Bone spur treatment
Your doctor may suggest over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. They may also recommend changing into more comfortable shoes or putting inserts in your shoes.
If these don’t improve your symptoms, your doctor may suggest an injection of cortisone to ease swelling, stiffness, and pain. If the bone spur is causing severe pain or limiting mobility, your doctor may recommend surgical removal.
A bunion is a bony bump at the base of your big toe. Bunion symptoms include:
If not treated, bunions can get worse and make it uncomfortable to wear shoes or walk without experiencing pain.
Initial treatment for a bunion includes:
- changing to larger shoes
- adding shoe inserts
- taping your foot into a normal position
- taking OTC pain medications
If this treatment isn’t effective, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Bursae are small sacs filled with fluid located near joints, bones, or tendons. Their purpose is to help reduce friction.
If a bursa by your big toe joint has become irritated or inflamed by your shoe or repetitive motion, you most likely have bursitis.
Bursitis commonly gets better on its own. Call your doctor if it doesn’t improve in a week or two, the pain intensifies, or swelling becomes excessive.
The initial treatment steps for bursitis include resting with your feet elevated and taking OTC pain medication if necessary. Your doctor might also suggest using a cane or other device to relieve pressure while standing and walking.
If your doctor diagnoses your bursitis as being caused by an infection, they will often prescribe an antibiotic. If necessary, your doctor may surgically drain your bursa, but it’s unlikely that they’ll remove it.
A corn is a hard, thickened area of skin similar to a callus, although it’s typically smaller and harder. It can also be painful.
Corns are your body’s response to friction and pressure. They’re not considered to be dangerous.
Often corns can be treated by using non-medicated pads or wearing shoes that fit your feet better. Your doctor may recommend reducing the size of your corn by rubbing it with a pumice stone or washcloth while bathing.
They may also suggest applying moisturizing cream with ammonium lactate, salicylic acid, or urea.
Trimming your toenails may help as well. Usually corns will go away with gentle treatment and when the source of pressure and friction is eliminated.
Gout is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis that often affects the big toe joint. It’s caused by too much uric acid in the body, which can crystalize and build up in joints. This leads to swelling, inflammation, pain, and a burning sensation.
Sometimes, uric acid deposits form hard deposits under the skin called tophi, which appear as bumps or lumps.
Gout cannot be cured, but it can be treated and managed with self-care strategies and medication. Your doctor may recommend managing the pain with:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen or ibuprofen
To prevent tophi, your doctor may prescribe medications such as febuxostat or allopurinol.
Your doctor will also suggest making certain lifestyle changes, including:
- reducing your intake of purine-rich food, such as red meat
- stopping the use of tobacco products
- limiting alcohol
- losing weight
If you have rheumatoid arthritis and notice a bump under the skin near your big toe joint, it could be a rheumatoid nodule.
For people with rheumatoid arthritis, the development of lumps under the skin is not unusual. Typically, they’re not painful and occur near joints affected by the arthritis.
Rheumatoid nodule treatment
Your doctor will most likely suggest not to treat rheumatoid nodules unless they cause the skin to become ulcerated or infected.
To reduce their size, your doctor may recommend steroid injections or certain disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
In some cases, surgical removal may be necessary.
A bump on your big toe may be a symptom of several different conditions, such as a bone spur, a bunion, or bursitis.
Even if the bump isn’t painful, you shouldn’t ignore it. See your doctor for diagnosis and treatment, especially if it’s causing discomfort that interferes with your daily activities or gets larger or more painful over time.