Arthritis Foot Pain
Arthritis is very common but is not well understood. Actually, “arthritis” is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. They may stay about the same for years but may progress or get worse over time.
If the feet seem more susceptible to arthritis than other parts of the body, it is because each foot has 33 joints that can be afflicted and there is no way to avoid the pain of the tremendous weight-bearing load on the feet.
Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger and toe joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray.
Arthritis diagnosis often begins with a primary care physician, who performs a physical exam and may do blood tests and imaging scans to help determine the type of arthritis. An arthritis specialist, or rheumatologist, should be involved if the diagnosis is uncertain or if the arthritis may be inflammatory.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. When the cartilage, which is the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones – wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic.
There are many different risk factors that contribute to developing arthritis. Some types of arthritis run in families. Recent research has suggested, for instance, that a defective gene may play a role in osteoarthritis. Your genes can make you more susceptible to environmental factors that may trigger arthritis.
The risk of many types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout increases with age. Women are more likely than are men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout, another type of arthritis, are men. Previous joint injury, notably in athletes and industrial workers, especially if the injuries have been ignored (which injuries of the feet tend to be).
Excess pounds put stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. Obese people have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
Arthritis may be treated in many ways. Patient education is important. Physical therapy and exercise may be indicated, accompanied by medication. Controlling the uric acid level in people prone to gout helps to prevent gouty attacks and thereby reduces the chance of the associated arthritis.
Surgical intervention is a last resort in arthritis, as it is with most disease conditions. Damaged joints can be replaced surgically with artificial joints.
Not all types of arthritis are preventable, but Osteoarthritis may be helped by correcting any faulty mechanics that lead to the joint not moving properly. Custom orthotics from your podiatrist will make sure that the foot and ankle joints are properly aligned.
When to call a doctor
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association it is important to see a doctor of podiatric medicine if any of the following symptoms occur in the feet:
- 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
Arthritic feet can result in loss of mobility and independence, but early diagnosis and proper medical care can help significantly.