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What is arthritis?

Arthritis in the feet and ankles means inflammation in the joints of these areas. Imagine your foot as a complex puzzle of over 30 joints and an intricate network of bones, ligaments, and muscles. When arthritis hits, this puzzle of joints can become swollen, stiff, and painful. Symptoms vary but typically involve pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced mobility. Over time, walking or even standing can become a challenge.

What are the different types of arthritis?

There are four main types of arthritis that affect the feet and ankles:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA), the “wear and tear” type, commonly occurs with age or from overuse. It often affects the big toe and ankle joints, causing stiffness, pain, and reduced motion. The diagnosis often involves X-rays or an MRI, and treatments include physical therapy, medication for pain management, and, in severe cases, surgery.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)is an autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation. RA often affects the toes and the midfoot. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and foot deformities. Diagnosis is made through blood tests and imaging, while treatment options comprise medications, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery.
  • Psoriatic arthritisaccompanies psoriasis, a skin condition. It typically impacts the toe and ankle joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Diagnosis involves examining symptoms and medical history, while treatment includes medication, lifestyle changes, and potentially surgery.
  • Goutresults from the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints, frequently the big toe. It’s known for severe pain during an acute attack, redness, and swelling. The diagnosis is often made through joint fluid tests, and treatment includes medication to reduce inflammation and lower uric acid levels. Lifestyle changes can also help manage gout.

While less prevalent than the main four, there is another type of arthritis that affects the foot and ankle, and that is post-traumatic arthritis. This arthritis occurs after some type of trauma or injury to that same joint or affected area.

What can be done to prevent, manage, or treat arthritis?

When it comes to preventing and managing arthritis, a little goes a long way.

  • Exercise and physiotherapy:Regular, low-impact exercise like swimming, walking, or cycling can strengthen the muscles around your joints, improving stability. Physiotherapy can also help improve your range of motion and alleviate pain.
  • Dietary changes:Maintaining a healthy weight reduces pressure on your joints. Eating a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish, berries, and green leafy vegetables can help.
  • Quit smoking:Smoking can increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis as it triggers a stress response in the immune system that can lead to inflammation. Quitting smoking can be challenging, but the benefits, including a reduction in arthritis risk, are numerous.
  • Proper footwear:Shoes that are too tight, have high heels, or offer little support can lead to foot and ankle pain. Wearing well-fitting shoes with good arch support and cushioning can protect your joints and prevent pain.
  • Maintain good posture:Improper posture, especially during prolonged periods of sitting or standing, can put excess stress on your joints. Maintaining an ergonomically friendly work setup can help reduce this pressure.

Advancements are continuously being made with regard to treatments for this chronic condition. Newer medications and therapies, such as biological response modifiers, offer new hope for managing arthritis. In severe cases, surgical interventions like joint replacement or fusion can significantly improve quality of life. Ongoing research and trials on stem cell therapy, gene therapy, and innovative new drugs aim to revolutionize arthritis treatment.

Your best foot forward

We at Texas Orthopaedic Associates invite you to take the first step towards better joint health with us. Don’t let arthritis keep you on the sidelines; empower yourself with knowledge, take control of your lifestyle, and seek the right treatment. Your journey to better foot and ankle health starts here.