05/20/2013 02:41 pm ET

Bunions May Be Hereditary, Study Finds

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Got bunions? You can thank your grandparents or parents for those, according to a new study.

The research, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, shows that many common foot disorders, including hammer toe, claw toe and bunions, seem to be inherited, particularly among white men and women of European descent.

"These new findings highlight the importance of furthering our understanding of what causes greater susceptibility to these foot conditions, as knowing more about the pathway may ultimately lead to early prevention or early treatment," study researcher Dr. Marian Hannan, of Harvard Medical School and Hebrew SeniorLife, who is the editor in chief of the journal, said in a statement.

Bunions are quite prevalent, with recent studies showing that more than a third of older adults experience them. They occur when the joint of the big toe pushes away from the foot because the big toe is being pushed up against the rest of the toes, the Mayo Clinic explained. When this occurs, the bone that's pushed away from the foot forms a bump and can be painful, particularly when a person wears tightly fitting shoes.

In the new study, researchers looked at foot bunions (also called hallux valgus), lesser toe deformities and plantar soft tissue atrophy among 1,370 study participants with an average age of 66 who were part of the Framingham Foot Study. Researchers found that 31 percent of the participants had bunions, 30 percent had lesser toe deformities and 28 percent had plantar soft tissue atrophy.

They found bunions and lesser toe deformities seemed to be particularly heritable, though the plantar soft tissue atrophy didn't seem to be heritable.

A past study, in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, also showed that bunions become more common as people get older, and that women are more likely to have bunions than men.



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