What is Arthritis in the Foot and Ankle?
If you feel pain and stiffness in your feet and ankles, odds are that you could be suffering from arthritis, a foot problem that is particularly common as you age. While severe arthritis can restrict mobility making it difficult to walk even short distances, the good news is that with proper treatment, pain can be minimized and the quality of your life significantly improved.
While arthritis is informally referred to as joint pain or joint disease, the real answer to what is arthritis is that it isn’t a single disease. There are several different types of arthritis and related conditions. Besides impacting your feet and ankles, arthritis can also occur in your back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders or hands. Let us look at some types of arthritis in detail:
- Osteoarthritis - This is the most common type of arthritis that occurs on account of wear and tear to the joint cartilage. It can result in swelling, inflammation and pain.
- Post-traumatic arthritis - Of the types of arthritis in feet and ankles, this is quite common. Essentially it results on account of any traumatic injury that can cause the joints to become arthritic at a later time.
- Rheumatoid arthritis - This is an inflammatory condition which results on account of irritation of the joint lining. In some people, the condition can damage a number of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. Essentially it is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks your own body tissues.
- Psoriatic arthritis - This can affect one or more joints. A common condition associated with this kind of arthritis is swelling of the toe, known as dactylitis.
Symptoms of arthritis in the foot and ankle:
- Trouble walking
- Joint stiffness and swelling
- Pain after a period of rest
Diagnosis and Treatment of Arthritis in Feet
If the orthopedic surgeon suspects that the nagging pain in your foot and ankle is on account of arthritis, a complete medical examination will be in order. There is going to be an X-ray to confirm the type and extent of arthritis.
Some of the other tests that you may be asked to undergo include:
- Bone scan
- CT scan
The doctor will be able to begin a treatment regimen once the diagnosis is confirmed. While there isn’t any treatment to repair the damaged cartilage, further damage can definitely be stemmed and pain be minimized.
Treatment options for arthritis include:
- Anti inflammatory medicines
- Injections such as cortisone
- Weight management
- Wearing supportive footwear. Orthotics are a must have for people with arthritis. It is also important to ensure that your shoes have proper arch support.
- Low impact exercises - Achilles stretch, toe pull, toe curl, are among some of the exercises that help with arthritis management.
If non-surgical treatments fail, surgery may be needed. If arthritis is advanced, the surgeon may consider fusing or replacing the joint. The surgeon will take this call based on many factors such as:
- Which joint is involved
- What are your current activity levels
- What are the treatment goals
Although there is no cure for arthritis, the above treatment options can slow the progress of the disease and relieve symptoms. With proper treatment, you can, not just manage pain but also remain active, and lead a quality life despite this common foot problem.