As we get older, our feet begin to show signs of wear and tear like foot pain. They bear all our weight, and then some, throughout our lives. One of the common causes of foot pain, especially in patients over the age of 60, is arthritis. You might associate arthritis with your knees, hips or even hands, but it is also a common condition that afflicts the feet.
What exactly is arthritis?
Arthritis is a group of conditions that cause inflammation, swelling, and pain in your joints. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. In this form of the disease, the cartilage that protects the ends of your bones, where they meet in a joint, wears away, leaving the bones unprotected when they rub together during movement. This causes unnecessary friction resulting in inflammation, swelling, pain, and mobility issues.
Another common form of arthritis that affects the feet is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. RA attacks the synovium, a lining that covers and lubricates the joints. When your immune system attacks the synovium, it causes swelling which can lead to the weakening and destruction of the joint. To cause further complications, when the joints of your feet are weakened, they are more susceptible to developing additional conditions like hammertoe.
How does arthritis affect the foot?
Your feet have over 30 joints each that are held together and controlled with ligaments. Your feet also bear the brunt of your weight with every step you take, subjecting them to significant wear and tear. As a result, your feet are vulnerable to developing osteoarthritis and other painful conditions.
What does it feel like to have arthritis in my foot?
The primary symptoms of arthritis in your feet are pain, swelling, and stiffness. More specifically, your pain may flare up when you move or during vigorous activity. It is also common to experience more severe pain and swelling when you wake up in the morning or after periods of rest and inactivity. You may experience soreness when pressure is applied to your foot and trouble while walking.
How will the podiatrist know if I have arthritis?
Our compassionate and trusted New Hampshire podiatrist will perform a comprehensive physical exam of your feet and ask many questions about your symptoms and experiences. He will analyze your gait and your shoes to rule out any other potential conditions that could be causing your pain. In some cases, x-rays or other imaging tests may be needed to accurately diagnose your condition.
How is arthritis treated?
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for arthritis, so treatment is focused on managing your symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. In most cases, treatment will begin conservatively and may include the prescription of anti-inflammatory medications. You may also be prescribed custom orthotics to support your feet.
Dr. Nagy may also suggest that you change your footwear to allow enough space for your feet to be comfortable. You will also be taught stretches and exercises to improve strength and flexibility in your feet which can help to reduce pain.
However, in some cases, more invasive treatment may be necessary to address arthritis in your feet. If further treatment is necessary to manage your condition, Dr. Nagy will discuss your condition with you in detail and answer your questions about the treatment options available so that you can make the best-informed choice about your health. Some treatment options may include:
- Arthroscopic debridement – This minimally invasive procedure is used to remove inflamed tissue or bone spurs that form on a joint.
- Joint fusion – In this procedure, the doctor will remove the ends of the bones that meet in a joint and fuse the two ends together to create one rigid unit.
- Osteomy – This procedure is the surgical realignment of a joint.
Can I do anything to prevent arthritis?
Arthritis has strong hereditary links, so there is little you can do to prevent arthritis. However, you can take steps to make it easier to manage your symptoms. Exercise to keep your muscles strong and supple so they are better equipped to support your joints.
You should also maintain a healthy balanced diet and stay within a healthy weight range to reduce the amount of pressure you put on your feet and their many delicate joints.
What can I do to ease my symptoms?
You can stretch, soak your feet in warm Epsom salt baths, and take anti-inflammatory medications. However, the best thing you can do is schedule a consultation with your trusted New Hampshire podiatrist at Nagy Footcare when your feet hurt.
The earlier a condition is diagnosed, the more quickly treatment can begin. Also, treatment is often easier and more effective when conditions like arthritis are caught in early stages.
At Nagy Footcare, our best day is the day you wake up with no foot pain.