Your feet. They help you stand, get around and stay in shape.

Facing a foot problem can be serious. You could be left in pain when walking or worse, it may affect your ability to drive.

Bunions are a common foot problem. We turned to Eric Tan, MD, assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC for help. Tan, a foot specialist at USC Orthopaedic Surgery, answered a few questions to give us a better understanding of what bunions are.

What is a bunion?

A bunion is where your big toe starts to drift towards the outside of the foot. Imagine if you were looking at your right foot. Your big toe would start to move further to the right, so it creates an L like shape on the side of your foot. You will start to see a bump over the big toe.

How does someone get a bunion?

Sometimes, bunions are genetic. If you have a relative, such as a grandmother or father who had a bunion, the chances of you getting a bunion increases. Other times, bunions are caused by the type of shoes you wear. This is especially the case for women’s shoes or any shoes that have a narrow peak in the front. When your toes are constricted they push the toe further toward the outside.

As the big toe moves further outward it will start to run into the other toes. This could potentially lead to hammertoe as the big toe starts to cross under the second toe.

How do you know if you have a bunion?

Most people do not even realize they have a bunion until it becomes a problem. Your toe could drift over and you might not even notice it. As time progresses you may find that it feels really tight in the front of your shoes, especially on the inside of your foot. That is the case if you have a bunion because the inside of the big toe is hitting the shoe. This usually alerts people that they have a problem.

Does a bunion cause a bump?

The bunion causes a residual bump that is on the inside of your foot. That bump is what rubs onto the shoe. In more serious cases you will start to see ulcerations of the skin because of how the shoe rubs against the toes.

What kinds of resolutions are there?

Some people don’t experience pain so they live with the condition. Others monitor and make adjustments to their lifestyle. In a few situations, foot surgery is an option.

Is there ever an urgent situation where foot surgery is necessary?

If the skin gets infected, surgery is necessary. Otherwise, more complications that can potentially be life threatening may occur.

How do I prevent a bunion?

Make sure you keep your toes flexible. Keep them moving. You can do this by avoiding shoe-wear that constricts your feet.

If you feel that you have a bunion visiting a foot doctor who specializes in orthopaedic surgery is recommended. Doing this will allow you to get a thorough analysis of your situation and all of your options provided to you. Learn more about what to expect when you visit your foot surgeon here.

If you suffer from a bunion, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist. To learn more about the USC Orthopaedic Surgery, visit ortho.keckmedicine.org. To schedule an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit http://ortho.keckmedicine.org/patient-information/request-an-appointment/.