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Ledderhose disease is a type of fibromatosis that afflicts the feet. People with this disease often experience a thickening of the fascia located on the bottoms of the feet. This is not usually painful in the early stages of the disease, but it can become painful as the disease progresses. Surgery is not usually necessary, unless the disease causes problems walking.
This disease is relatively uncommon, and only a very small percentage of the population suffers from it. Men typically have a better chance of developing this disease. It was first described in the late 19th century by a German surgeon named Georg Ledderhose.
The plantar fascia is the connective tissue that helps form the arch of the foot. It runs from the heel bone to the toes. Ledderhose disease affects this area of the foot, and it is sometimes called plantar fascial fibromatosis.
People with Ledderhose disease will often notice that small masses of abnormal tissue are growing in this area. These masses, known as nodules, are benign, meaning that they are not cancerous. They typically grow slowly, and only about a quarter of patients suffering from this disease will find these nodules on both feet.
When the tissue first begins to thicken, Ledderhose disease patients will usually not experience much pain. They may feel some discomfort, however, when the nodules are bumped on the floor or a shoe. Eventually, the nodules may become very large, and they will sometimes begin to cause pain, and in a few cases, the toes will curl uncontrollably.
During the early stages of Ledderhose disease, doctors will usually advise patients to be careful with the nodules on the feet. Special soles that provide extra cushioning are often all that is needed. Surgery is not usually necessary at this point.
Surgery may be necessary, however, as the disease progresses. It is usually only attempted if the disease is impacting the patient's ability to walk. It can sometimes be a difficult and risky surgery, since there are a number of tendons and nerves in this area.
Ledderhose disease will sometimes occur in patients suffering from another disease known as morbus dupuytren, or Dupuytren's disease. Although they are two similar diseases, Dupuytren's disease afflicts the palms and fingers. Patients suffering from this disease will sometimes find it difficult to fully extend or straighten some of their fingers. This is caused by the thickening of tissue under the skin on the palm of the hand, which causes the tendons to contract.