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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 painful that it can stop you walking 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.


What is Arthritis? 

Arthritis is a broad term for a number of conditions that damage the normal structure and function of a joint. For most people this is associated with a gradual stiffness of the joint with pain and localized inflammation. In some cases the joint will become deformed.


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 or may not cause symptoms.

There are many different types of arthritis. The most common type, osteoarthritis (OSS-tee-oh-ar-THRI-tiss), 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 farctured bone, torn ligaments or severe ankle sprains 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.


The other common types of arthritis are known as the inflammatory arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common and is 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, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.


Treatment of Foot and Ankle Arthritis

The first part of treatment of the arthritis involves diagnosing which type of arthritis you have and which joints are affected. This involves a through examination and history taking. X-rays and laboratory tests often can confirm the type and extent of the arthritis. Other specialist tests such computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to evaluate your condition.


There are many treatment options available for arthritis and these will be discussed with you in detail during your consultation. Options include pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, injection therapy, orthotic insoles, footwear advice, physiotherapy, weight loss. Surgery may be necessary. This may involve removing the inflammation and bony spurs around the arthritic joint, realigning the joint, eliminating the painful motion of the joint, replacing the joint with an artificial joint or a combination of all these.    

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