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Understanding Brachymetatarsia

Brachymetatarsia is a condition of the foot in which one or more of the patient’s metatarsal bones – five bones between the tarsal bones of the foot and the phalanges of the toes – are abnormally short. The condition can cause the toes to look abnormally short and can cause significant pain. Podiatrists have two main options for treating brachymetatarsia – corrective footwear or surgery.

understanding brachymetatarsia

About one in 2,000 people are affected by brachymetatarsia, mostly women. Men and women with Down’s syndrome are also often affected by this condition. Other genetic conditions may also contribute to the development of brachymetatarsia.

The good news is that brachymetatarsia is easily treatable by qualified foot specialists. Before making an appointment, learning a little more about brachymetatarsia will allow you to better understand your foot doctor’s advice.

What Are The Metatarsal Bones?

The metatarsal bones are five long bones located between your tarsal bones and your toes. These bones are analogous to the metacarpal bones in your hands. These bones are tubular in shape and are described with numbers from largest to smallest, i.e. first metatarsal bone, second metatarsal bone, etc.

The metatarsal bones have a convex shape and help give your foot its arch. Working along with muscles and tendons, the metatarsal bones help to facilitate movement and also help distribute weight. Metatarsal bone fractures are some of the most common sports injuries. These injuries are often blamed on the design of modern athletic shoes, many of which are created to be lightweight, but do not afford appropriate protection.

Causes of Brachymetatarsia

Brachymetatarsia manifests itself during the patient’s youth, and occurs when one of his or her metatarsal bones stops growing while the other metatarsals continue growing. There are several potential causes for brachymetatarsia. It can be caused by trauma to the metatarsal bone or infection. Most cases of brachymetatarsia are caused by hereditary genetic defects. Brachymetatarsia most commonly affects the fourth metatarsal bone. Cases where more than one toe are affected by the condition are less common.

How Brachymetatarsia Impacts Lives

Brachymetatarsia is more than just a cosmetic condition. It can also cause patients significant pain and create difficulties with mobility.

Toes shortened by brachymetatarsia can cause a number of problems. For example, when walking, your weight is usually shifted from the fifth toe to the fourth and all the way up the line to the first. Brachymetatarsia interferes with this process and causes improper weight distribution. Because weight is not being transferred properly, your feet may experience significant pain and discomfort.

If your fourth toe is shorter than the fifth, it will not properly assume weight and will not properly transfer weight to the third toe. Your fifth and third toes will assume extra weight, which may cause them discomfort. Men and women suffering foot discomfort may avoid walking, exercising, and other important life activities, making treatment important.

In addition to pain issues, abnormally short toes have a tendency to drift upward, which can make finding shoes that fit properly extremely difficult.

Many men and women with brachymetatarsia do not experience pain, but the cosmetic impact of the condition distresses them, as do difficulties in finding comfortable footwear. These reasons may compel them to seek treatment for this medical condition.

How Foot Doctors Treat Brachymetatarsia

Several treatments for brachymetatarsia exist. The treatment your foot specialist prescribes will be based on likelihood of success and other individual factors.

Corrective footwear is a common treatment for brachymetatarsia. Should the patient’s main complaint about the condition involve pain in the ball of the foot caused by the other metatarsals bearing excessive weight, special footwear or shoe padding can help to transfer weight away from this area. Custom-made shoes can be helpful for patients who cannot find appropriately-fitted footwear because of the condition.

Surgery to lengthen the metatarsal affected by brachymetatarsia is another treatment option. This surgery is accomplished by cutting the shortened metatarsal and shifting it into a better position via fixation or bone graft. Surgical options may leave the patient with plates or screws in the foot.

After brachymetatarsia surgery, your foot surgeon may require that you use crutches or a knee scooter to keep weight off of the affected foot. This will be necessary for about three months to give the foot time to heal properly. Once you’re off crutches or the knee scooter, your doctor may ask you to wear a special boot or shoe for a time afterward.

A new treatment uses a device to help toe bones affected by brachymetatarsia grow to their normal length. The treatment begins with the breaking of the toe bone affected by the condition. After the toe is broken, a foot specialist places a device over the broken toe which helps the broken toe grow back longer. The device must be adjusted by the patient every day until the end of treatment, usually about one month.

This form of treatment does not leave plates or screws in the patient’s foot and the device can be worn inside patients’ shoes. Your foot doctor can evaluate your individual circumstances and help determine whether this treatment is right for you.

If you or a loved one suffer from brachymetatarsia, foot specialist Dr. Sean Ravaei can help. Ravaei, a highly qualified foot specialist, has helped patients throughout Southern California with a variety of foot problems including bunions, hammertoes, and more. Ravaei works to provide individualized, holistic foot treatment plans to his patients. With Ravaei’s help, patients suffering from brachymetatarsia can get the treatment they need to alleviate pain and resolve any mobility issues the condition may be causing.

Being free of foot pain is important for your quality of life and mobility. Ignoring foot conditions like brachymetatarsia only results in unnecessary pain and inconvenience. With proper medical care, brachymetatarsia and other foot conditions can be quickly and conveniently resolved, allowing you to walk and run along your life’s journey.

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