Arthritis affects approximately one in four adults in the United States and is a leading cause of work disability. To recognize this major impact on the health of Americans, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Arthritis Foundation, and other partners have designated the month of May as Arthritis Awareness Month. Arthritis can affect the joints in many parts of the body including the feet and ankles.

Why Does Arthritis Affect the Feet?

Arthritis involves the inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of an affected joint. These symptoms are usually accompanied by an increase in the fluid in the joint. Feet are susceptible to arthritis because each foot has thirty-three joints that must carry the weight of the entire body.

What are the Causes of Arthritis in the Feet?

While some arthritis may be hereditary, arthritis tends to mostly affect people over fifty. However, people in all age groups, including children, are potential victims. Arthritic symptoms in the feet and ankles can occur for several reasons.

  • Injuries – Especially ignored injuries.
  • InfectionsBacterial and viral infections can affect the joints.
  • Bowel DisordersInflammatory bowel conditions (e.g., colitis and ileitis) often result in arthritis in the joints of the toes and ankles.
  • Drugs – Prescription drugs and illegal drugs can induce arthritis.
  • Autoimmune Syndromes – Research has suggested that defective genes may play a role in congenital osteoarthritis.

What are the Different Kinds of Arthritis?

Osteoarthritis: This is also known as degenerative joint disease and is the most common form of arthritis. Although it can suddenly result from an injury, it is most usually caused by gradual wear and tear on the joints. With aging, cartilage breaks down, and dull, throbbing pain develops which may be accompanied by muscle deterioration.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA):RA is a severe and crippling disorder that tends to afflict women more than men. It often affects smaller joints in a symmetrical pattern – e.g., both ankles. RA is characterized by alternating periods of remission and exacerbation, and in some cases it can abate permanently. Acute RA causes serious joint deformity and loss of motion.

Gout (Gouty Arthritis):Gout is a very painful condition caused by a buildup of uric acid (a normal food byproduct) in the joints. The big toe joint is the most commonly affected area. Men are more likely to be afflicted than women.

Psoriatic Arthritis: Psoriasis, a skin disorder, can also affect the joints, but only about five percent of people with skin psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. This kind of arthritis can also occur in individuals who do not have skin psoriasis. The arthritis is generally mild and affects only a few joints. The ends of the fingers or toes are most commonly affected.

Traumatic Arthritis: Arthritis can result from penetrating, blunt, or repeated trauma. It can also occur from the forced inappropriate motion of a joint or ligament. Injury to a joint, such as a bad sprain or fracture of an ankle, can also cause damage to the articular cartilage and eventually lead to arthritic changes in the joint.

When Should I Visit a Podiatrist?

It’s important to see a podiatrist if one or more of the following symptoms occur in the foot or ankle:

  • Swelling in one or more joints.
  • Recurring tenderness or pain in any joint.
  • Heat or redness in a joint.
  • Limited motion in a joint.
  • Joint stiffness when getting out of bed.
  • Skin changes, such as the appearance of rashes or growths.

What is the Treatment for Arthritis?

If the inflammation associated with arthritis is not treated, both the cartilage and bone in the affected joint can be damaged, and, unfortunately, destruction of cartilage is not reversible. Although most types of arthritis can’t be cured, the symptoms can be controlled. At Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle, a trained podiatrist will work with the patient to control the inflammation and preserve or restore joint function. Physical therapy and exercise may be recommended along with medication. The functionality of the foot or ankle may be helped by the use of orthotics, braces, or specially designed shoes. Arthritic feet can mean a loss of mobility and independence, but early diagnosis and proper care can help significantly. Don’t ignore your aching feet – make an appointment with us today.