Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle

The pain and stiffness you feel in your feet and ankles as you grow older could be arthritis. If left untreated, this nagging pain can grow worse, eventually becoming so excruciating that you can no longer walk even short distances. Severe arthritis can restrict your mobility and limit your quality of life, but with proper treatment, you can slow the development of arthritis and lead a more productive life.

This page answers basic questions about the arthritic foot and offers information on treatment of this condition.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a broad term for a number of conditions that destroy the workings of a normal joint.

Arthritis may occur in your back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders or hands, but it also occurs in your feet and ankles. Almost half of people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis of the foot and/or ankle that may not cause symptoms.

There are many different types of arthritis.The most common type, osteoarthritis, results from the "wear and tear" damage to joint cartilage (the soft tissue between joint bones) that comes with age. The result is inflammation, redness, swelling, and pain in the joint.

Also, a sudden and traumatic injury, such as a broken bone, torn ligament, or moderate ankle sprain, can cause the injured joint to become arthritic in the future. Sometimes, a traumatic injury will result in arthritis in the injured joint even though the joint received proper medical care at the time of injury.

Another common type, rheumatoid arthritis, is an inflammatory condition caused by an irritation of the joint lining (the synovium). People with rheumatoid arthritis for at least 10 years almost always develop arthritis in some part of the foot or ankle.

Other types of inflammatory arthritis include gout, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis.

Foot Anatomy

The foot has 26 bones and more than 30 joints. Tough bands of tissue, called ligaments, hold these together. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments work together with the many joints of the foot to control motion. This smooth motion makes it possible for a person to walk well. When you get arthritis in the foot, you develop pain and limited motion so that you cannot walk as well.

 

*Source:  American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society® http://www.aofas.org

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