Perthes Disease

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Perthes Disease, also known as Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, is a condition that affects the hip joint in children. It is a rare condition that occurs when the blood supply to the femoral head, which is the rounded top of the thigh bone, is temporarily disrupted. This disruption leads to the death of bone cells in the femoral head, causing pain and other symptoms. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of Perthes Disease, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Pain in Hip: The Most Common Symptom

One of the primary symptoms of Perthes Disease is pain in the hip. Children with this condition often experience pain that can range from mild to severe. The pain may be felt in the groin, thigh, or knee, and it may worsen with physical activity or prolonged periods of sitting or standing. It is important to note that the pain may come and go, making it difficult to diagnose the condition in its early stages.

Limping: A Visible Sign of Perthes Disease

Limping is another common sign of Perthes Disease. Children with this condition may develop a noticeable limp as they try to alleviate the pain in their hip. The limp may be more pronounced after physical activity or prolonged periods of walking or running. It is important to pay attention to any changes in your child’s gait and seek medical attention if you notice persistent limping.

Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty in Movement

Children with Perthes Disease often experience a limited range of motion in their hip joint. They may have difficulty moving their hip in certain directions or performing activities that require hip movement, such as climbing stairs or riding a bike. This limited range of motion can significantly impact a child’s daily activities and quality of life.

Stiffness: A Common Complaint

Stiffness is another symptom that children with Perthes Disease may experience. The affected hip joint may feel stiff, making it challenging to move or bend the hip. This stiffness can be particularly noticeable in the morning or after periods of inactivity. It is important to encourage gentle stretching exercises to help improve flexibility and reduce stiffness.

Weakness: Muscles Affected by Perthes Disease

Perthes Disease can lead to weakness in the muscles surrounding the hip joint. The lack of use and limited range of motion can cause muscle wasting, which further contributes to weakness. It is essential to work with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles and improve overall hip function.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of Perthes Disease is unknown. However, it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some potential risk factors for developing Perthes Disease include:

  • Family history of the condition
  • Male gender (boys are more commonly affected than girls)
  • Age (Perthes Disease typically occurs between the ages of 4 and 10)
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Perthes Disease involves a combination of physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests. X-rays and MRI scans are commonly used to assess the condition of the hip joint and determine the extent of bone damage.

Treatment for Perthes Disease aims to relieve pain, maintain hip function, and prevent long-term complications. The specific treatment plan may vary depending on the child’s age, the stage of the disease, and the severity of symptoms. Some common treatment options include:

  • Rest and limited weight-bearing activities
  • Physical therapy to improve range of motion and strengthen muscles
  • Bracing or casting to support the hip joint
  • Surgery in severe cases to realign the hip joint or remove damaged bone

It is important to note that the treatment of Perthes Disease can be a lengthy process, often spanning several years. Regular follow-up appointments with a healthcare professional are crucial to monitor the progress of the disease and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

Can Perthes Disease be Cured?

While there is no definitive cure for Perthes Disease, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly improve outcomes. With proper management, most children with Perthes Disease can regain normal hip function and lead active lives. However, it is important to note that the long-term effects of the disease can vary from person to person.

It is essential for parents and caregivers to provide support and encouragement to children with Perthes Disease. Engaging in physical therapy exercises, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and following the recommended treatment plan can help optimize the child’s recovery.

In conclusion, Perthes Disease is a condition that affects the hip joint in children, causing pain, limping, limited range of motion, stiffness, weakness, and muscle wasting. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for managing the disease and improving outcomes. By understanding the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options, parents and caregivers can provide the necessary support to children with Perthes Disease and help them lead fulfilling lives.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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