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Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic

Rare Foot Diseases: Understanding Three Bone Problems

Most foot pain has a fairly simple cause. A little evaluation identifies the specific problem and helps you get the invested care that you need. Not all conditions are simple, however. In some cases, unusual or hard-to-diagnose conditions cause significant discomfort. These rare foot disorders need extra attention to both identify them and get the care they require.

Three Rare Foot Disorders

Rare foot problems

A rare foot disease is any lower limb condition that not many people develop. Often it displays symptoms that are easy to mix up with more common problems, but causes different damage. There are many of these unusual lower limb conditions that cause pain, mobility issues, and even deformities. Three specific disorders that cause a fair amount of damage are Kohler’s disease, Freiberg’s disease, and Maffucci syndrome.

Despite the names, these are not what you normally might consider a “disease.” All three of these conditions are bone-related problems that largely affect children or teenagers. None of them are contagious, and most aren’t inherited. All three can cause discomfort that limits your son or daughter’s mobility or activities. All three are unusual and often get mistaken for more common conditions.

  • Kohler’s disease – This is a breakdown of a bone in a child’s arch called the tarsal navicular bone. Usually affecting young boys, an interruption of blood supply to the bone causes it to deteriorate. This creates swelling, redness, tenderness, limping, and pain under pressure.
  • Freiberg’s disease – This is a deterioration and flattening of one of the metatarsal heads in the ball of the foot. This can affect anyone at any age, but normally pre-teen to teenage girls are most prone to the problem. This causes pain when walking, stiffness in the affected toe, swelling, and even limping.
  • Maffucci syndrome – This condition causes the long bones in a child’s feet to develop abnormal bone lesions called enchondromas. These benign growths develop in early childhood and make the affected bones more prone to breaks. Your child might also develop vascular lesions under the skin that form firm knots.

Identifying and Treating Rare Conditions

Because the symptoms these three rare foot disorders create can be so similar to more common causes for forefoot or arch pain, they need extra attention to diagnose correctly. Dr. Darren Silvester and our team of specialists at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic will consider your child’s pain and other symptoms. To accurately determine if the culprit is one of these rare problems, though, we will need diagnostic images to look for the defining changes in your child’s bones.

In many cases, X-rays are sufficient to see the bone damage. Children with Kohler’s disease will show an arch bone breaking down with patchy areas of dense tissue. Young people with Freiberg’s disease will have one metatarsal head that appears flatter than it should. Children with Maffucci syndrome will have small lesions on their long bones that create odd bumps. For mild cases of any of these disorders, X-rays might not be enough—in which case, an MRI could show more detail to help identify the problem.

Once we have diagnosed the condition, we’ll help your child begin pediatric foot care to manage it. Exactly what this looks like will depend both on the specific problem your child has and how severe it actually is. Most children with Kohler’s disease need to rest their foot and possibly wear a cast or special boot that alleviates arch pressure. Freiberg’s disease usually needs time in a cast as well to reduce pain and stop the bone deterioration. The bony bumps from Maffucci syndrome can be accommodated with orthotics, or possibly removed to improve mobility.

We believe you and your family deserve healthy, pain-free feet. Rare foot disorders may be hard to identify, but they can be diagnosed and treated. Let Dr. Darren Silvester and our caring, experienced staff at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic in San Antonio, TX, work with you to get to the root of whatever causes you or your children foot pain of any kind. Make an appointment with us through our website, or by calling 210.375.3318.