Arthritis is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. With this condition, inflammation occurs in one or more joints, causing pain and stiffness. While arthritis can affect any joint in the body, it is especially painful when it affects the feet or ankles. Living with arthritis in your feet can be a challenging experience, but depending on the type of arthritis you have, an experienced podiatrist can recommend treatment that could help you live life without pain and discomfort.
Types of Arthritis That Affect the Feet and Ankles
There are over 100 types of arthritis, and there are different parts of the feet or ankle that can be affected by this condition, including the toes, midfoot, hindfoot, and ankle joint.
The Most Common Types of Arthritis
- Osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis is the most common and is caused by wear and tear on the joints over time. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is especially common in the feet, toes, and ankle joints. Osteoarthritis in the feet can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This type of arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is commonly found in the toes, midfoot, and ankle. Rheumatoid arthritis in the feet can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and deformities.
- Psoriatic arthritis. This type of arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect the skin and joints. Psoriatic arthritis is commonly found in the toes and midfoot and can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling.
- Gout. This type of arthritis is caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. Gout is most commonly found in the big toe joint but can also affect the ankle and other joints in the feet. Gout can cause severe pain, swelling, and redness in the feet.
- Post-traumatic arthritis. This type of arthritis develops due to an injury or trauma to a foot or ankle joint. Post-traumatic arthritis happens when the cartilage protecting the bones within the joint becomes damaged or is worn away. This results in pain and inflammation, and over time, if left untreated, post-traumatic arthritis can lead to deformity of the joint and even permanent disability.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Your Feet and Ankles
- Pain. Constant or intermittent pain can vary in intensity from dull to sharp. In addition, there may be tenderness if pressure is applied to the affected joint.
- Stiffness. Stiffness can make it difficult to move the joints. Stiffness is often worse in the morning or after rest.
- Swelling. Arthritis in the feet can cause swelling, making it difficult to wear shoes or even walk. In addition, there may be warmth and redness.
- Deformities. Certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause deformities in the feet, such as bunions, hammer toes, or claw toes.
- Reduced range of motion. Patients with arthritis often lose full range of motion in their joints.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
If you experience any signs of foot or ankle arthritis, it is essential to see an experienced podiatrist for a proper diagnosis. Your podiatrist will perform a physical exam, take a medical history, and may order imaging tests such as X-rays or an MRI to diagnose the type of arthritis and to determine the severity of the condition. In some instances, a blood test may be ordered to confirm the type of arthritis you have. For some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, blood tests are essential for making an accurate diagnosis.
Once a diagnosis is made, treatment options will be discussed. Treatment will depend on the type and severity of arthritis and your overall health and lifestyle factors. Some common treatments for arthritis in the feet and ankle may include the following:
- Medications. Your podiatrist may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and pain in your feet and ankles.
- Steroid injections. A cortisone medication can be injected into the affected joint to reduce inflammation and swelling and provide pain relief.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy can help to improve the range of motion in your feet and ankles and help with flexibility and strength in the affected joints.
- Assistive devices. Devices such as custom orthotics or braces can help support the affected joints, reduce pain, and improve mobility. For those with severe cases of arthritis, using a cane or walker may be recommended.
- Lifestyle modifications. Making changes to your lifestyle can also help to manage arthritis symptoms. Your doctor may suggest losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding activities that put excessive stress on the joints. These modifications can help reduce pain and improve mobility.
- Neurostimulator. Neurostimulation can be an effective treatment option for chronic arthritis pain when other treatments have failed. A podiatrist can implant a neurostimulator device under the skin to deliver electrical impulses to the nerves to interrupt pain signals.
- Foot and ankle surgery. In severe cases of arthritis where the condition progresses or if conservative treatments do not provide relief of symptoms, a podiatrist may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to determine if surgery may be necessary. There are several surgical options available to treat arthritis in the feet or ankles, such as joint fusion or joint replacement.
How a Podiatrist Can Help
In addition to diagnosing and recommending treatment for arthritis in the feet and ankles, a podiatrist can help patients manage the condition. They can provide education and guidance on arthritis and monitor your condition to determine whether it has worsened. Your podiatrist will determine if your treatment plan needs to be adjusted if your condition worsens or symptoms become more severe.
Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for Your Foot and Ankle Health
If you have pain in your feet or ankles, it can negatively impact your life and interfere with your daily routine. You need a compassionate, skilled podiatrist to work with you to determine the cause and provide treatment based on your specific needs. With 30 years of experience, the podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists understand the relationship between your feet and your overall health. Whether your condition requires therapy, orthotics, or surgery, we offer leading-edge medical care to address your unique situation.
We offer patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area safe, effective, and affordable treatment plans. If you’re struggling with a foot or an ankle problem, call us today at 817-481-4000, or fill out our contact form to make an appointment.