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Freiberg’s disease : symptoms and treatments

Updated on 18 June 2024

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Most often affecting teenagers throughout their growing phase, Freiberg’s disease is distinguished by the necrosis of bone tissue in one or more metatarsals of the foot. In order to effectively treat this painful plantar pathology, it must be identified and treated as soon as possible.

Let us examine Freiberg’s disease, its symptoms, and possible treatments for patients to understand better the range of foot problems that can arise.

What is Freiberg’s disease?

Freiberg’s disease is an osteochondrosis, an abnormal growth of bone and cartilage that affects the foot, specifically the metatarsus (the five long bones located on the top of the foot directly before the toe bones). They are numbered from 1 (big toe) to 5 (little toe). The second, third, and less frequently, the fourth metatarsal, whose bone head will become necrotic, are all affected by this condition in both feet.  It generally happens in the first few years of puberty and is more frequently seen in girls than in boys. Adults can occasionally develop Freiberg’s disease, but this is relatively uncommon.

The causes of Freiberg’s disease can be idiopathic or traumatic. The second instance manifests after years of hard training in sports that repeatedly injure the metatarsals, such as ballet dancing. People with an excessively long second metatarsal also exhibit this disease.

The sooner Freiberg’s disease is treated, the greater the chance that the patient may recover completely. Last but not least, you should be aware that this condition is still limited and does not spread to other body parts.

Freiberg’s disease symptoms

Freiberg’s disease is defined by various symptoms, beginning with pain felt at the head of the metatarsals (base of the toes) during athletic activities and walking, as well as when pressure is given to this area. The discomfort subsides while the foot is at rest. When flexing the foot, this pathology might occasionally give rise to a stiffness sensation.

Finally, if the condition is advanced, the joint may enlarge as a result of the inflammation. When this condition is in its advanced stages, with necrosis of the cartilage and bones or deformity of the metatarsal head, X-rays are the most effective diagnostic tool to locate it.

Freiberg’s disease treatments

Depending on the stage of Freiberg’s disease, several treatments are available.

When the ailment is not very advanced, a health professional can request that athletes temporarily stop participating in sports and rest their feet (except for cycling and swimming, which are still allowed). In order to ease the problematic foot (or both, if necessary) and improve weight distribution, they may also advise wearing foot orthoses.

In some circumstances, the podiatrist may additionally recommend an anti-inflammatory medication to relieve the pain (oral or localized corticosteroid infiltrations). It goes without saying that it is not permitted to wear any type of footwear, especially heels, that exert pressure on the front of the foot.

Surgery is typically prescribed when Freiberg’s disease is sufficiently advanced or when other medicinal options have failed. The damaged metatarsal head may be partially preserved or wholly replaced with a prosthetic. The surgeon will choose the optimum course of action for the patient’s circumstances.

Early detection of Freiberg’s disease for better treatment

Freiberg’s disease, which is painful and incapacitating for young adolescents going through the process of maturing, has distinct symptoms that make it possible to identify it immediately and take appropriate action before it becomes too established. Make an appointment with a podiatrist at a FootNetwork Clinic as soon as possible if you notice discomfort and persistent pain in the metatarsal. The podiatrist will offer your child the proper treatment based on the diagnosis, whether it is Freiberg’s disease or another pathology.

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