Blog Post

What is Arthritis? Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Arthritis, in general terms, means inflammation and swelling of a joint. This term encompasses the inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints, generally accompanied by an increase in the fluid in the joints.

Arthritis may impact any joints in the body which includes the joints in the foot and ankle. There are many different reasons why a patient may suffer from arthritis in the foot and ankle. More than often, Arthritis is a manifestation of a complex disease.

The human foot has thirty-three (33) joints which are affected by arthritis. Due to the weight bearing nature of our feet, arthritis can immediately turn into a debilitating and crippling disease. While the prevalence of arthritis increases with age, all people from infancy to middle age are potential victims. People over 50 are most prone to arthritis. Millions of Americans suffer from arthritis each year.

Arthritis in our feet and ankle leads to pain, swelling, loss of function and mobility therefore early diagnosis and treatment is of paramount importance.

What causes Arthritis?

Besides heredity, arthritic symptoms may arise in a number of ways:

  • Post-traumatic arthritis: after a joint has been traumatized. Trauma (blunt force) to a joint, depending on the severity of it, may cause damage to a joint that isn’t reversible.
  • Bacterial and viral infections: they can attack our joints and cause destruction to the joints. Some examples include pneumonia, gonorrhea, staph infections, and Lyme disease.
  • Bowel disorder: you can suffer from arthritis in conjunction with bowel disorders such as colitis and ileitis, frequently resulting in arthritic conditions in the joints of the ankles and toes. Such inflammatory bowel diseases seem distant from arthritis, but treating them can relieve arthritic pain.
  • Drug abuse: using drugs, both prescription drugs and illegal street drugs, can induce arthritis.
  • Autoimmune disease: as part of a congenital autoimmune disease syndrome of undetermined origin.

Types and symptoms

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Gout (gouty arthritis)
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Traumatic arthritis

Here’s more detailed information about these types of Arthritis.

When to visit a Podiatrist

It is important to visit a doctor of pediatric medicine if any of the following symptoms occur in your feet. Prompt diagnosis and treatment prevent further damage to the affected joint and start the healing process.

  • Swelling in one or more joints
  • Recurring pain or tenderness in any joint
  • Redness or heat in a joint
  • Limitation in motion of joint
  • Early morning stiffness
  • Skin changes, including rashes and growths

Diagnosis and treatments of Arthritis

The foot is commonly affected by different forms of arthritis and ignoring arthritis may lead to irreversible damage to the joint and altered normal biomechanics/motion of the foot. It is important to see your podiatrist who can evaluate and treat you immediately.

Thorough history of the illness, meticulous clinical examination and radiographic studies are very important in the treatment. There is a variety of different modalities available to treat arthritis. Some of these treatment modalities include but are not limited to:

  • Non-steroid anti-inflammatory
  • Steroid injection
  • Physical therapy
  • Icing
  • Elevation
  • Compression
  • Bracing
  • Orthotics, commonly referred to shoe inserts, can be a very powerful treatment to altered or faulty biomechanics of the foot.

Depending on the severity and the type of arthritis that you are experiencing, we will tailor our treatment to increase your chances of success. However, sometimes the patient doesn’t respond to conservative therapy, then surgical intervention should be discussed.

We believe in patient education as being a very important part of the treatment. The advent of modern technology, has increased the surgical options at our disposal in the treatment of your arthritis. Joint-replacement and joint sparing procedures in the foot and ankle have gained momentum, as the drive toward preservation of motion in the foot and ankle has only increased. However, at times fusion of a joint is more appropriate and this will be discussed with you in detail during the consultation.

How to prevent Arthritis

It is very important in the foot and ankle as arthritis can be debilitating to the patient. Some forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis secondary to faulty mechanics of the foot and ankle may be preventable by custom molded orthotics. Proper alignment of the joints of the foot and ankle to reduce the chances of damage and erosion to the cartilage and therefore prevent destructive changes to the joint which are at times painful. Another example is arthritis secondary to gout. This may be remedied by controlling the Uric acid level in people who are prone to gouty attacks.