Nearly half of all adults over the age of 60 suffer from arthritis of the feet and ankles. This painful condition causes inflammation of the joints, and patients can find it difficult to move. However, arthritis doesn’t just affect older people. Anyone of any age can develop arthritis. With early diagnosis and effective treatment, it’s possible to manage your symptoms and lead a full, active life. If you suffer from arthritis of the feet and ankles, the skilled team at Shenandoah Podiatry is eager to help you get back on your feet in comfort.
Types of Foot and Ankle Arthritis
There are over 100 types of arthritis, some more common than others. The feet and ankles are particularly at risk because they bear the weight of the whole body. Each foot contains over 30 joints, each of which can be afflicted with arthritis. Some of the most common types of foot and ankle arthritis include:
A degenerative joint disease often associated with age, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It tends to develop over time rather than as a sudden onset. Cartilage breaks down as you get older, and this can lead to a number of symptoms:
- dull, throbbing pain at night
- pain and stiffness that worsens over time
- muscle weakness
People who are overweight are more prone to arthritis, as the feet and ankles have to bear more weight. This can lead to the development of bone spurs as well.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, autoimmune disease. The body’s immune cells attack the synovium around the joints, and swelling can damage the bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. Unlike the gradual progression of osteoarthritis, RA tends to have a more sudden onset. It can rapidly expand to several smaller joints, affecting toes, feet, ankles, hands, and fingers. The pattern is typically symmetrical, affecting both sides of the body.
Women are much more likely to develop RA than men. As the disease progresses, victims may develop stiffness, fatigue, and weight loss, and the pattern can be cyclical. People with RA may alternate between bouts of inflammation and remission, and acute RA often starts in the feet and ankles.
Gout (Gouty Arthritis)
Related to diet, gout tends to affect men more than women. People may develop gout if they consume a diet rich in red meat, shellfish, red wine, rich sauces, and brandy. The protein content in lentils and beans can play a role, too.
This type of diet can cause an excess buildup of uric acid in the joints, especially the feet, ankles, and the big toe. Gouty arthritis can be incredibly painful. It can be severely debilitating, making it almost impossible to walk.
Often thought of as a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis is actually a joint disorder. When it affects the skin, psoriasis presents as dry, scaly patches. With psoriatic arthritis, people experience similar pain and discomfort as other forms of psoriasis. However, arthritic symptoms tend to be milder than other forms. The most commonly afflicted areas are the tips of the fingers and toes. About one in 20 people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition, and RA is an autoimmune condition. Traumatic arthritis is different in that it is caused by physical trauma. Sometimes called posttraumatic arthritis, it results from an inappropriate motion of a joint or ligament. This could be from blunt, penetrating, or repeated trauma to the affected area.
Dislocations, sprains, fractures, and other injuries can damage cartilage and other tissues, leading to arthritis symptoms in the foot and ankle joints. The symptoms may not appear right away, and the injured cartilage may not lead to arthritis until years later. Injured joints are much more prone to develop arthritis later on, even if the injury is properly treated.
Foot and Ankle Arthritis Symptoms
Arthritis in the foot and ankle area can have a variety of symptoms, including the following:
- Swelling in the affected joints
- Pain, tenderness, or stiffness in the joints
- Reduced range of motion
- Ankle instability and difficulty walking
- The sensation of heat or redness
- Skin changes, such as rashes
- Bunions and other growths
- Increased pain or swelling in the morning
Diagnostic Tests and Examinations
When you meet with the foot doctors at Shenandoah Podiatry, we will conduct a thorough examination to assess your arthritis. The exam may include:
- A physical exam, including stretching your feet to test the range of motion
- A gait analysis to assess the way you walk
- A review of your family and medical history
- An X-ray and other imaging tests such as CT scans and MRI exams
- A blood test and other laboratory tests
Available Foot and Ankle Arthritis Treatments in Roanoke
Every treatment plan is custom-tailored to each individual patient. Dr. Jennifer Keller and Dr. Natalie Allen are experienced podiatrists who have helped many people get back on their feet in comfort. There is no cure for arthritis. But, treatments can slow the disease’s progression and offer relief from symptoms. You can still remain active and lead a fulfilling life.
Common elements of arthritis treatment plans may include:
- Patient education about lifestyle choices and preventative measures
- Physical therapy and exercise to improve strength and encourage healthy motion
- Over-the-counter and prescription medication, such as NSAIDs to manage symptoms
- Custom braces, orthotics, shoes, and other assistive devices
- Corrective surgery as a last resort, such as joint replacement