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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 pain and with the tremendous amount of weight bearing on the feet, it is almost impossible to avoid pain.
The causes of arthritis are multifactorial and while the exact cause is not known, some of the major factors that are considered important in arthritis 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 can 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), who is a trained physician specialized in 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 feel of the 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 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 reversibleearly detection and diagnosis is then imperative in preventing further damage to the cartilage and bone of the affected joint. Even though most cases of arthritis are not curable, with early detection it can be controlled and brought into remission to prevent more severe outcomes.
The main objective of treatment would be to cure the disease when pos-sible, but also to control the inflammation and try to preserve the function in 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 specific course of treatment including patient education, prevention, exercise, physical therapy, medica-tion, use of custom-made shoe inserts called orthoses, specially made shoes and braces and even surgical intervention, as a last resort, could be prescribed.