What Is Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle?

Arthritis is the general term for a number of conditions that affect the way our joints function. As we get older, pain and stiffness your feet and ankles can be caused by arthritis. This nagging pain can grow worse without treatment, and develop into excruciating pain that limits your mobility. The development of arthritis can be slowed with proper treatment, so you can continue to have an active lifestyle. Arthritis of the foot and/or ankle occurs in more than half of people in their 60’s and 70’s, although some may not experience symptoms. The wear and tear on joints often begins when you are in your 40’s. If you find yourself saying “Oh, my aching feet”, you may be in the early stages of arthritis in your foot and ankle. As arthritis progresses, the cartilage and soft tissues wear down decreasing the cushioning in your joint and eventually deterioration of the joint itself.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is caused by the wear and tear damage to your joint cartilage as part of aging. Symptoms include inflammation, swelling, redness, and joint pain. Often, osteoarthritis will cause the cartilage at the base of the big toe to degenerate. Loss of mobility and pain follow as bony spurs develop. Other areas often affected are the joint where the shin and ankle meet and the three joint in your foot (heel bone, the inner mid-foot bone, and the outer mid-foot bone).

Broken bones, torn ligaments or moderate ankle sprains can eventually develop arthritis in the injured joint.

An inflammatory condition caused by an irritation of the joint lining is known as rheumatoid arthritis. People who have been living with rheumatoid arthritis for 10 or more years usually develop arthritis in their foot or ankle. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where cells form your immune system produce inflammatory chemical and attack your joints. Synovium, the lining of your joint, thickens and produces excess joint fluid causing damage and swelling to the cartilage and bones in the joint.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis include:
» pain
» difficulty in walking
» swelling
» joint stiffness and lack of mobility

There are a number of foot conditions and deformities that are associated to RA:

» Hammertoes
» Bunions
» Achilles tendon pain
» Ankle pain and stiffness
» Heel pain
» Flat feet
» Nodules caused by RA that can be painful when they are located on the bottom of the foot or press against shoes when walking

Other type of inflammatory arthritis is gout, which manifests with painful gout attacks or flare-ups.

How Is Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle Treated?

Your podiatrist will take a complete medical history and exam your feet and ankles to diagnose arthritis. X-rays, MRI’s, bone scans, CT scans, and other test made be ordered to confirm the type of arthritis and extent of the damage. Once your Ryan Foot and Ankle Clinic podiatrist confirms the diagnosis, they will recommend a course of treatment, which may include the following:

» Anti-inflammatories
» Steroid Injections
» Physical therapy
» Weight loss program
» Pads for your shoes
» Custom orthotics or braces
» Recommendations for supportive shoes
» Stretching exercises for the foot, ankle and Achilles tendon

In some cases, arthritis has progressed to the point where surgery is needed.

What To Expect If Surgery Is Recommended?

If non-surgical treatments do not provide relief for pain and deformities caused by arthritis, your Ryan Foot and Ankle surgeon may recommend surgery. There are a number of surgical procedures that are used to correct complications caused by arthritis including cleaning the affected joint, fusing the joint and in some cases, joint replacement. Your healing time will depend on the procedure, but you will likely be in a cast followed by braces and special shoes for a period of time after surgery.

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort from arthritis, give us a call at one of our 5 local podiatry offices in Charlotte, Concord and Harrisburg today for more information or to schedule an appointment.