Gout vs Bunion: Symptoms and Key Differences

May 29, 2024 | 6 min read

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Gout and bunions are common foot conditions that can cause significant pain and discomfort. Gout is a type of arthritis caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, leading to sudden, severe joint pain, often in the big toe.

Bunions, on the other hand, are bony bumps that develop gradually due to genetic factors and tight shoes, causing persistent pain and difficulty walking.

gout vs bunion

What is Gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood. This excess uric acid forms sharp crystals in the joints, leading to sudden, severe pain and inflammation.

Gout most commonly affects the big toe but can also impact other joints such as the ankles, heels, knees, hands, and elbows. The symptoms of gout usually appear suddenly and intensely, often at night, and are known as gout attacks or flare-ups. These attacks can last for days or even weeks, followed by periods of remission where symptoms are absent.


What is a Bunion?

A bunion is a structural deformity of the foot where the bones in the front part of the foot move out of place, causing the big toe to lean towards the second toe. This results in the formation of a bony bump at the base of the big toe.

Bunions develop gradually over time due to genetic factors, wearing tight-fitting shoes, or other foot conditions. Unlike gout, which is a systemic issue, bunions are localized to the foot and primarily affect the big toe joint.


Symptoms and Sensations of Gout vs Bunion

Symptoms of Bunions

Bunions are more than just a cosmetic issue. They can cause significant discomfort and impact your daily life. Here are the common symptoms associated with bunions:

  • Bony Bump: A noticeable bump at the base of the big toe.
  • Pain: Persistent pain or tenderness around the big toe joint.
  • Swelling and Redness: Inflammation and redness around the affected area.
  • Difficulty Walking: Pain and stiffness can make walking uncomfortable.
  • Skin Changes: Development of calluses or corns where the toes overlap.

These symptoms typically develop gradually and worsen over time. If left untreated, bunions can lead to additional foot problems and impact your mobility.

Symptoms of Gout

Gout symptoms are often sudden and severe, affecting the quality of life significantly during flare-ups. Common symptoms of gout include:

  • Intense Pain: Sudden, sharp pain, usually starting at night.
  • Swelling: Significant swelling in the affected joint.
  • Heat: The affected area feels hot to the touch.
  • Redness: The skin around the joint becomes red and inflamed.
  • Limited Movement: Severe pain can restrict movement in the affected joint.

Gout attacks can last for days or even weeks, followed by periods where symptoms disappear completely. These symptoms are typically recurrent and can become more severe if left untreated.

For those experiencing any of these symptoms, using Symptom Checker can provide initial guidance, but it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for a definitive diagnosis.

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Causes of Gout vs Bunion

Causes of Bunions

Bunions are primarily caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Understanding these causes can help in preventing and managing this condition effectively.

Genetic Factors

  • Bunions often run in families, indicating a genetic predisposition.
  • Inherited foot shapes, such as flat feet, can contribute to bunion formation.

According to OrthoInfo, 70% of individuals who develop bunions have a family history of the condition, indicating a significant genetic component in its development​ 

Lifestyle Factors

  • Wearing tight or narrow shoes, especially high heels, can exacerbate bunions.
  • Activities that put excessive pressure on the feet can worsen the condition.

Other Contributing Conditions

  • Flat feet: People with flat feet are more prone to developing bunions.
  • Arthritis: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of bunions.

These factors can contribute to the gradual development of bunions, leading to pain and discomfort over time. Recognizing these causes early can help in taking preventive measures and seeking appropriate treatment.

Causes of Gout

Gout is caused by hyperuricemia, a condition where there is too much uric acid in the blood. This leads to the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints, causing inflammation and pain.


  • High levels of uric acid result from the body producing too much uric acid or not excreting enough through urine.
  • Uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints, leading to gout attacks.

Notably, in the United States, 8.3 million people have gout. Among them, 90% have kidneys that don't remove enough uric acid, while 10% experience an overproduction of uric acid, according to the HSS.

Dietary and Lifestyle Factors

  • Consumption of foods high in purines, such as red meat and seafood.
  • Drinking alcohol, especially beer, and beverages sweetened with fructose.
  • Obesity and being overweight can increase the risk of gout.

Health Conditions

  • Certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease, can contribute to hyperuricemia.
  • Genetic predisposition: A family history of gout increases the risk.

By understanding these causes, individuals can make lifestyle changes to manage and prevent gout effectively. 

Diagnosis of Gout vs Bunion

Diagnosing Bunions

Physical Examination

  • The doctor will examine the foot, focusing on the big toe joint.
  • They will look for signs of a bony bump and assess the range of motion in the toe.

Use of X-rays

  • X-rays are used to determine the extent of the deformity.
  • They help visualize the alignment of the foot bones and check for any joint damage.

Including diagrams of the diagnostic process can help readers understand what to expect during a medical examination for bunions.

Diagnosing Gout

Medical History and Symptom Review

  • The doctor will ask about the patient’s medical history, including any family history of gout or arthritis.
  • Symptoms such as the sudden onset of pain, swelling, and redness in the joints will be reviewed.

Lab Tests

  • Uric Acid Blood Test: Measures the levels of uric acid in the blood. High levels can indicate gout.
  • Joint Aspiration: Involves extracting fluid from the affected joint with a needle. The fluid is examined under a microscope to detect uric acid crystals.


  • X-rays: Used to rule out other conditions and check for joint damage.
  • Ultrasound: Can detect urate crystals in the joints.

Treatment Options

Treatment for Bunions

Treating bunions can involve both non-surgical and surgical methods. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the bunion and the level of discomfort it causes.

Non-Surgical Options

  • Footwear Changes: Wearing shoes with a wide toe box to reduce pressure on the bunion.
  • Orthotics: Custom orthotic devices can help align the foot correctly and relieve pain.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation.

Surgical Options

  • Bunionectomy: Surgical removal of the bunion. This procedure realigns the bones and corrects the deformity.
  • Recovery Process: Post-surgery, patients may need to wear a special shoe or cast and avoid putting weight on the foot for a few weeks.

Treatment for Gout

Gout treatment focuses on managing flare-ups and preventing future attacks through lifestyle changes and medications.

Managing Flare-Ups

  • NSAIDs: To reduce pain and inflammation during gout attacks.
  • Corticosteroids: May be prescribed to control severe inflammation.
  • Colchicine: Helps reduce gout symptoms if taken at the first sign of a flare-up. Colchicine, sold under the brand name Colcrys, has been approved by the FDA for the prevention of gout flares.

CAUTION: This information is for educational purposes only. Use colchicine only if prescribed by a doctor and follow their guidance to ensure safe and effective treatment. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new medication.

Long-Term Management

  • Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding high-purine foods, and reducing alcohol intake.
  • Medications: Medications to lower uric acid levels in the blood and prevent future gout attacks.

Major Differences Between Gout and Bunions

Feature Gout Bunion
Nature Systemic conditions affecting the whole body Localized foot deformity
Cause High levels of uric acid in the blood Misalignment of foot bones
Onset Sudden, intense attacks (flare-ups) Gradual development over time
Pain Severe, sharp pain during attacks Persistent pain that worsens over time
Affected Areas Big toe, ankles, knees, elbows Primarily big toe joint
Symptoms Swelling, redness, heat, intense pain Bony bump, pain, swelling, redness
Treatment Focus Managing uric acid levels, treating attacks Correcting foot alignment, reducing pressure


When to Consult a Doctor

  • Persistent pain that does not improve with home treatment.
  • Swelling, redness, or inflammation in the foot or joint.
  • Difficulty walking or performing daily activities due to foot pain.
  • Sudden and severe pain in the big toe or other joints (possible gout attack).
  • Visible deformity of the foot (bunion development).

Frequently Asked Questions

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Understanding the differences between gout and bunions is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment. Gout is a systemic condition caused by high levels of uric acid, leading to sudden and severe joint pain.

Bunions, on the other hand, are localized foot deformities that develop gradually over time due to genetic and lifestyle factors. Recognizing the symptoms and causes of each condition can help individuals seek appropriate medical advice and treatment.

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