Enchondroma is a type of small, benign tumor that grows in the bones of the feet and hands. These tumors usually develop during childhood; they are most often diagnosed in patients between the ages of 10 and 20.

Enchondromas can form on the bone beneath the toenails, causing pain and discomfort when walking. Removal of enchondromas may be necessary if the tumor begins to weaken the bone.

Causes of enchondroma

The exact cause of enchondromas is unknown, and there is no evidence that any kind of trauma, disease, or exposure to chemicals contribute to the development of these tumors. Some doctors theorize that enchondromas develop because of overgrowth of cartilage on the growth plate at the end of the bones, or from overgrowth of embryonic cartilage.

Enchondroma symptoms

Enchondromas are usually not painful. They are typically diagnosed following an X-ray of a surrounding area.

As enchondromas continue to grow, they can cause weakness in the affected bone, which can then lead to fracture. Large enchondromas can cause foot or hand pain and enlargement of the affected area. Enchondromas may also appear as multiple tumors. When multiple growths are present, that may be indicative of the following conditions: Ollier's disease or Maffuci's syndrome.

The symptoms of enchondromas are similar to the symptoms found with countless other foot injuries and deformities. Make sure to consult your physician for a proper diagnosis.

Enchondroma treatment

Following diagnosis, treatment will depend on the following: 

  • Age and health of the patient. 
  • Progression of the disease. 
  • Size and location of the tumor.

If the tumor has stopped growing and is not causing any bone weakness or deterioration, treatment may not be necessary. In that case, your physician would continue to conduct periodic physical examinations and observe the affected area.

When enchondromas are causing pain, growing abnormally, or contributing to bone weakness, your doctor will most likely recommend surgical treatment. Surgery would involve removal of the enchondroma and possibly a bone graft to ensure proper healing.