Your Feet and Arthritis
Arthritis is a chronic condition that can affect any joint in our bodies. However, our feet are an easy target due to the fact that there are 33 joints in each foot. The term arthritis refers to the swelling and inflammation at the joint level. The swelling and arthritic changes inside the joint can also be detected as swelling on the outside. These arthritic changes are also accompanied by painwith tremendous amount of weight bearing on the feet it is almost impossible to avoid pain.
Although causes of arthritis are multi-factorial and the exact cause is not known, some of the major factors that are considered important are
Genetic and hereditary factors
Lifestyle factors including injuries to the joints (work & sport related)
The role of inflammation and the immune system in causing joint damage
Arthritic changes at the joint level can cause limitation of motion initially and later loss of motion. Arthritis is a disabling disease and in some severe cases could have crippling effects, therefore early recognition and proper medical care can prevent further deterioration of the joints and loss of mobility in our feet.
A doctor of podiatric medicine (foot specialist), a trained physician who specializes in the medicine and surgery of the foot and ankle, should be contacted if the following symptoms are noticed in the feet
Pain or tenderness in a joint (ongoing or comes and goes)
Stiffness and hard to move joints (especially early morning)
Redness and/or warm to the touch skin over a joint
Skin changes, including rashes and recurring growths
Occasional swelling in one or more joints
There are numerous types of arthritis that can afflict the joints in the body in general and in the feet in particular. Some of these are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Arthritis affects the cartilage and the bone inside a joint. Once cartilage is destroyed it is not reversible, therefore early detection and diagnosis are imperative in preventing further damage to the cartilage and bone of the affected joint. Most cases of arthritis are not curable, however with early detection they can be controlled and brought into remission to prevent more severe outcomes.
The main objective of treatment would be to cure the disease when possible, to control the inflammation and to try to preserve the function of the affected joint. There are many different treatment methods that are prescribed and suggested for different patients with different forms of arthritis.
As the foot specialist, the doctor of podiatric medicine is the one to be consulted since the foot is a frequent target of arthritic conditions. Depending on each individual case, a treatment may include patient education, prevention, exercise, physical therapy, medication, use of custom-made shoe inserts called orthoses, and specially made shoes and braces. As the last resort surgical intervention could be prescribed.