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Arthritis is the inflammation of joints and can impact the small joints and surrounding tissue of the foot and ankle, making it challenging to move without pain. The joints of the feet enable a wide range of movement and are often surrounded by cartilage, which helps bones glide smoothly over one another when a person moves. Arthritis cannot be cured, however there are many options available to treat the symptoms and slow its progress to reduce pain. There are many types of arthritis which can impact the foot and ankle. Two common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that often impacts multiple joints of the foot and ankle. 90% of rheumatoid arthritis patients will eventually experience symptoms in the foot and ankle.
The immune cells of people with this condition attack the soft tissue between the joint capsule and joint cavity of the synovial joints, which causes the area to become swollen. Over time, the synovium damages the bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons and can cause joint deformity and disability. Mainly affects the lesser joints such as the metatarsal phalangeal joints of the feet.
This form of arthritis affects 1% of the population, with women more than twice as likely to develop the condition than men.
Autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks healthy body tissue however it is not known what triggers this to start.
Symptoms are most often experienced in the toes and forefoot first, then in the back of the feet, and then the ankles.
The symptoms most often associated with rheumatoid arthritis are:
A good podiatrist will take history, conduct a physical examination of the foot and ankle and a Biomechanical Assessment to study your range of movement, look for swelling in the joint and pain experienced through movement. An X-ray, MRI or CT scan may also be recommended to evaluate the stage of the disease. If rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, your podiatrist will refer you to your GP where more tests to be conducted for accurate diagnoses.
An experienced podiatrist could suggest one or more of the following treatment methods:
There is no known way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, as the causes are presently unknown. There are several ways to reduce your risk of major joint damage after a diagnosis of this condition: