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Freiberg’s Disease: Rare Metatarsal Breakdown

Young feet are not immune to symptoms of wear and tear. Teens still get aches and pains in their lower limbs. One condition active teens, particularly girls, may need to be aware of is Freiberg’s disease. This unusual condition isn’t limited to adolescents, either—adults are still vulnerable to the problem. Although rare, this issue can limit activities and seriously damage the ball of the foot.

Recognizing This Rare Problem

Symptoms of Freiberg's DiseaseWhile this is a fairly uncommon issue, it can really impact the lives of those it affects. Freiberg’s disease is a slow breakdown of the bone tissue on any one of your metatarsal heads, though the second metatarsal head is usually the one affected. The problem is most common in teenage girls, though older adults and boys can develop it as well. No one is quite sure what causes the condition in the first place. The problem appears to be related to foot trauma, an interruption of the blood flow to the affected bone, or some combination of both.

However it starts, repetitive or frequent pressure on the ball of the foot makes it worse, which is often clear in young athletes or teen girls who frequently wear high heels. The end of the affected metatarsal begins to deteriorate. The bone breaks down, sometimes collapsing into small pieces. Eventually the end of the metatarsal forms a flattened lesion. The condition doesn’t always have severe symptoms, though it can. Typically you develop pain in the forefoot directly under the affected metatarsal. The discomfort is worst when you’re active and improves somewhat with rest. Your forefoot may feel stiff and occasionally develop swelling. The more advanced the problem is, the more likely you’ll develop a limp.

Catching the Break Down

Usually the condition isn’t hard to diagnose. Our expert physicians at Martin Foot and Ankle will need to examine your lower limbs carefully, though. We’ll need to know your symptoms and if you injured yourself before the pain developed or not. Our team will take diagnostic pictures to check for deteriorated lesions on the bones. This will confirm the diagnosis as well as help us determine the extent of the problem. From that information we can formulate a treatment plan that restores your forefoot, relieves your pain, and eliminates the Freiberg’s disease.

Restoring the Forefoot

The majority of the time, this condition can be treated conservatively. Your bones will need rest. In many cases, this means reducing or removing the weight on the affected foot. You might need to wear a special cast or walking boot. For mild cases, low-heeled, padded shoes or custom orthotics may help. You’ll have to take a break from sports and other hard impact activities, too. If there are loose pieces of bone in the joint, you may need surgery to correct the problem. Once the lesion is healed, you’ll be able to recondition your foot to return to your activities.

A condition that’s rare doesn’t mean it’s impossible for you or your teen to develop it. Freiberg’s disease needs properly invested care to restore the bones and allow you to walk normally. Don’t wait and risk further damage. Contact Martin Foot and Ankle in Hanover, York, or Lancaster, PA, for an appointment with one of our podiatrists. We’ll help you restore your lower limbs to full health. Call (717) 757-3537 or use our online contact form to reach us.

Photo Credit: zirconicusso via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dr. Keith F. Tyson
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