Before we delve into symptoms and treatment options, it is important to discuss the various types of arthritis that could affect your feet.
We realize it might seem odd that we mention “various types of arthritis.” There is a common misconception this is a single condition, but there are actually more than 100 different variations. Not all these types are as equally common. Further, some develop with greater frequency in the lower limbs.
Types of arthritis in feet and ankles include:
- Osteoarthritis. When we noted the misconception about arthritis being only a single condition, this particular variety is the reason behind that. Osteoarthritis is simply the most common of the various arthritic conditions. As such, people generally associate this “wear and tear” condition with arthritis as a whole.
- Gout. This arthritic condition can develop anywhere in the body, but tends to most commonly form in the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout is an interesting form of arthritis, since it is caused by a natural byproduct occurring when the body breaks down food. Uric acid is normal, but problems develop when the body either produces too much or cannot filter it out properly. When this happens, the uric acid builds up over time, settles into joints, and crystallizes. The sharp edges of the uric acid crystals cause pain in the soft tissue around affected joints.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Whereas osteoarthritis often happens over time and due to natural causes, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder wherein the body initiates attacks against the protective lining found in joints. Over time, the disease breaks down the lining, which leads to stiff, painful joints.
- Post-traumatic Arthritis. After a fracture or dislocation in a joint, this form of arthritis may develop. It can take some time, years even, before symptoms develop, but they are similar to the ones seen with osteoarthritis.
Foot and Ankle Arthritis Symptoms
Naturally, specific symptoms exhibited may differ depending upon the form of arthritis. In addition, symptom severity can vary based on an array of additional factors.
Arthritis literally means “joint inflammation” based on its roots of “arthron” (joint) and “itis” (inflammation). Accordingly, a key symptom for any form of arthritis is swelling in joints.
Your specific arthritic condition will dictate which other symptoms are present, but there may also be decreased range of motion, redness, and either sharp or dull pain.
In the case of gout, the symptoms usually arrive in the form of periodic “attacks” or “gout flares.” It is possible for you to experience a painful gout attack and then not have another one until months later.
A Little More About Exercise and Arthritis
If arthritis has held you back from being active, you will want to start out your arthritis exercise program slowly and gradually build up the duration and intensity of your workout sessions. As you do this, it is essential that you stay aware and listen to your body. If you have a flare-up, rest 2 to 3 days before resuming activity. There is no need to unnecessarily push through pain, so take the time to recover.
Exercise with arthritis might seem like a daunting task, but even a moderate level of activity is proven to ease your pain, increase joint mobility, and help you maintain a healthy weight. There are various workouts that can be beneficial, including range-of-motion, strengthening, and aerobic exercises. The key is simply to move because any movement can help your condition.
Need help determining which physical activities are best for arthritic foot and ankle joints? Contact Sunshein Podiatry Associates and we will be happy to help.
Our treatment plan for your arthritis will start with conservative options. We may need to recommend surgery, though, if nonsurgical care isn’t effective or your pain is causing severe disability. If you maintain a healthy weight and exercise on a regular basis—but still find joint pain to be debilitating—it might be time for you to consider arthritis surgery.
Our recommendation will depend on the location and type of arthritis, and the impact it has on your joints. In some cases, you may benefit from more than one procedure.
Types of arthritis surgery we perform include:
- Arthrodesis (fusion). Arthrodesis is a procedure where we fuse the bones of the joint completely together, thereby making one continuous bone out of two or more bones. The goal of this procedure is to reduce pain by eliminating any possible motion in the arthritic joint.
- Arthroscopic debridement. This surgery is often helpful in early stages of arthritis. Debridement (cleansing) is a procedure we use to remove loose cartilage, inflamed synovial tissue, and bone spurs from around the arthritic joint.
- Total ankle replacement (arthroplasty). In a total ankle replacement, we remove the damaged bone and cartilage, and then position new plastic or metal joint surfaces to restore the function of the affected joint.