The 5 Stages of Freiberg’s Disease

Lots of things come in fives. Fingers and toes. The traditional senses. The Great Lakes. The Spice Girls. So it also goes with the stages of Freiberg’s disease. This painful condition involves pain and damage to the second metatarsal bone (that’s near the base of the second toe) and most commonly affects teenagers just after a growth spurt.

While we’ll spare you the technical details of each individual stage, we can go over it more generally. At the onset, in stages I and II, tiny fissures and cracks begin to form at the toe-end of your second metatarsal bone (that’s near the base of the second toe), creating a depression. At first they may only be visible on MRI, but by stage II they can often be detected by ordinary X-ray radiography.

Toe Pain

As the disease progresses toward stages III through V, the damage becomes more extensive. The ends degenerate and the bones flatten, deteriorate, and eventually collapse, potentially leading to significant deformity, pain, and joint problems.

Naturally, the best strategy is to identify the problem well before it progresses to the later stages and receive prompt treatment. However, because the early stages of Freiberg’s disease share similar symptoms with many more common and less dangerous problems—or may be present without any obvious symptoms at all—you may not immediately realize there is a concern.

That’s why it’s so important to seek and expert whenever you notice particularly acute, chronic, or troublesome pain in your toes or forefoot. Foot pain is not normal, and even if the ultimate cause of your discomfort is something more minor than this condition, not doing anything about it only leads to more pain and potentially long-lasting complications. The earlier you seek help, the more likely conservative methods, such as resting and physical therapy, will be effective—and the less likely surgery will be required.

When foot pain strikes, call Greater Austin’s Dr. Keith McSpadden for expert analysis and care. Set up an appointment at one of our two Austin, TX area offices by dialing 512-593-2949.

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