Freiberg's disease is a relatively uncommon disorder that affects the joints of metatarsals, the bones that extend from the arch of your foot to your toes. The disease is associated with the gradual collapse or disintegration of the joint surfaces between the metatarsals as well as the formation of abnormal joint tissue.
Causes of Freiberg's disease
The specific events or factors that cause Freiberg's disease are not completely understood. However, there are several risk factors for the disease, which include the following:
- Age and gender (Freiberg's disease occurs most often in female adolescents and young women, although the disease can occur in any person at any age).
- Excessively long metatarsals.
- Foot trauma.
Symptoms of Freiberg's disease
Although Freiberg's disease may be asymptomatic, it can cause symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Activity-related foot injury.
- Chronic history of forefoot pain.
- Foot pain.
- Foot stiffness.
- Walking with a limp.
The disease progresses in stages. Stages I and II are characterized by the formation of relatively minor joint lesions or patches of abnormal tissue. Subsequent stages cause additional symptoms: Stage III includes flattening of the metatarsals; Stage IV involves bone collapse; and Stage V includes degeneration of the ends of the metatarsals and the toes.
Treatment of Freiberg's disease
Freiberg's disease may be asymptomatic, or it may heal without treatment particularly in Stages I through III. When medical intervention is necessary, the treatment goal is to rest the metatarsal joints, allowing the joint inflammation and irritation to go away. Your doctor will select your treatment depending on the severity of your symptoms and on how far the disease has progressed. For relatively minor symptoms, they may have you wear foot-supporting devices (i.e. shoe modifications, metatarsal pads, etc.) and/or prescribe steroid injections. For severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery to restore the joint's congruity. In severe cases, he may replace damaged metatarsal joints with prosthetic ones.
If you have been diagnosed with Freiberg's disease, or if you are experiencing symptoms of the disease, contact your doctor to obtain the treatment you need. With proper medical attention, you can have health and functionality returned to your foot.