What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation in the affected parts of the body.
RA mainly attacks the joints, usually many joints at once. RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In a joint with RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness , and deformity .
RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
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Types Of Foot & Ankle Arthritis
Arthritis, a condition characterized by damage and stiffness of the joints, may affect any of the more than 30 joints in the foot and ankle. The joints that connect the bones of the foot and ankle provide the body with the balance and stability required to stand, walk, and pursue other physical activities.
As arthritis advances, it may damage cartilage, the smooth material lining the ends of bones in the joints. Cartilage allows the foot and ankle bones to move against each other without friction. If cartilage erodes, the bones may begin to rub directly against each other, causing further joint damage and a deep, aching pain, particularly during movement. Bones that rub together may also cause bony growths to develop, which may interfere with joint motion and worsen pain. Over time, joint damage may also lead to stiffness and deformity in the foot and ankle and make walking and other movements difficult.
Foot Or Ankle Arthritis Prevention
While all cases of foot or ankle arthritis can be prevented, follow these guidelines to reduce your risk of developing it.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce the strain you put on the more than 30 foot or ankle joints. This will slow the progression of arthritis in the foot or ankle.
- Strengthening your body through exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing foot or ankle arthritis.
- Examine your foot biomechanics. Your doctor can provide treatment options for patients who have mechanical issues such as flat feet or high arches to reduce their risk of developing foot or ankle arthritis.
- Eat a healthy diet. Limiting foods such as red meat and shellfish can reduce the level of uric acid in your blood and lower your risk of developing Gout .
- Care for injuries. Early intervention and treatment of foot and ankle injuries can help you reduce your risk of developing foot and ankle arthritis later in life.
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Use Orthotic Devices For Stability And Balance
Canes, braces, shoe inserts your specific problem will determine what you need, Frisch says. Some people with arthritis in their feet find relief simply by taping their toes together. For others, a cane helps with stability. Still others find foot pain relief from shoe inserts because they can correct misalignments and distribute weight more evenly over the bottoms of your feet. You can buy shoe inserts over the counter or have them custom-made.
What Is Involved In Reviewing Your Medical History And Your Current Symptoms
When reviewing your medical history, your healthcare provider may ask the following questions:
Have you had any illnesses or injuries that may explain the pain?
Is there a family history of arthritis or other rheumatic diseases?
What medication are you currently taking?
Your healthcare provider may also ask:
What symptoms are you having? For example, pain, stiffness, difficulty with movement, or swelling.
About your pain:
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Your Lifestyle Is More Sedentary And Youre Moving Less
Regular physical activity is necessary for everyone but especially for people with RA. Research has shown that regular cardiovascular exercise and weight training can substantially improve daily function without exacerbating rheumatoid arthritis disease activity. There are numerous health benefits associated with regular physical activity like improved muscle strength and better bone and joint health which all help your aches and pains feel better. But rest is also needed to restore the body from the bouts of intense pain and fatigue that are characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis. But you cant let taking it easy become a way of life. A sedentary lifestyle may eventually lead to increased pain, fatigue, and weakness, and a lower quality of life.
Regular exercise also has another life-enhancing benefit: It helps reduce your odds of developing cardiovascular disease. Taking good care of your ticker is essential for people with rheumatoid arthritis, because heart problems are more prevalent in people who have RA compared with the general population. Its heart disease that kills you, not the RA, says Domingues. Its very important to talk to your primary care doctor or a cardiologist if you have RA to control your risk factors, such as high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.
Symptoms Affecting The Joints
Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily a condition that affects the joints. It can cause problems in any joint in the body, although the small joints in the hands and feet are often the first to be affected.
Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects the joints symmetrically , but this is not always the case.
The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis affecting the joints are outlined below.
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Circulatory Problems With Ra In The Feet
Some common circulatory issues in your feet that can result from RA include:
- Atherosclerosis. Also called hardening of the arteries, this happens when your arteries become narrow from plaque buildup. This can cause pain and cramps in your lower leg muscles.
- Raynauds phenomenon.This happens when blood is partially or fully blocked from reaching your toes. This results in blood vessels spasming and causing numbness, and abnormal color changes in your toes from white to blue to red. The toes can feel cold due to decreased blood flow.
- Vasculitis. This happens when your blood vessels get inflamed. This results in skin rashes, ulcers, and other possible symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
RA cant be fully cured. But there are plenty of treatments to help relieve the symptoms of a flare-up, as well as reduce the number of flare-ups and prevent joint damage.
Here are some of the most common treatments for RA in your foot:
Here are a few tips to help relieve RA symptoms in your foot:
See your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of the following symptoms of RA in the feet or elsewhere in your body:
- swelling in your feet or ankles
- skin ulcers on your feet or ankles
- foot pain that gets worse over time
- severe foot pain that makes it difficult to walk or do any activities with your feet
- losing range of motion in your foot or legs
- persistent, uncomfortable tingling or numbness in your feet
- abnormal weight loss
- persistent, abnormal exhaustion
Medical History And Physical Examination
After listening to your symptoms and discussing your general health and medical history, your doctor will examine your foot and ankle.
Skin. The location of callouses indicate areas of abnormal pressure on the foot. The most common location is on the ball of the foot . If the middle of the foot is involved, there may be a large prominence on the inside and bottom of the foot. This can cause callouses.
Foot shape. Your doctor will look for specific deformities, such as bunions, claw toes, and flat feet.
Flexibility. In the early stages of RA, the joints will typically still have movement. As arthritis progresses and there is a total loss of cartilage, the joints become very stiff. Whether there is motion within the joints will influence treatment options.
Tenderness to pressure. Although applying pressure to an already sensitive foot can be very uncomfortable, it is critical that your doctor identify the areas of the foot and ankle that are causing the pain. By applying gentle pressure at specific joints your doctor can determine which joints have symptoms and need treatment. The areas on the x-ray that look abnormal are not always the same ones that are causing the pain.
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Consider Surgery For Arthritis In The Feet
Foot surgery can be helpful, but its not a cure-all, Frisch says. Sometimes problems can recur despite surgery, he explains. Surgery should always be a last resort when your pain is limiting your lifestyle and choice of activities. The right procedure for you depends on the type of arthritis you have, where it is located, and the impact it has on your joints.
There are two broad categories for foot surgery: joint fusions and joint replacements, Frisch says. If the problem is too much movement, you fuse it, and if theres not enough, you try to mobilize it.
What Are The Complications Of Ra
Rheumatoid arthritis has many physical and social consequences and can lower quality of life. It can cause pain, disability, and premature death.
- Premature heart disease. People with RA are also at a higher risk for developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. To prevent people with RA from developing heart disease, treatment of RA also focuses on reducing heart disease risk factors. For example, doctors will advise patients with RA to stop smoking and lose weight.
- Obesity. People with RA who are obese have an increased risk of developing heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Being obese also increases risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Finally, people with RA who are obese experience fewer benefits from their medical treatment compared with those with RA who are not obese.
- Employment. RA can make work difficult. Adults with RA are less likely to be employed than those who do not have RA. As the disease gets worse, many people with RA find they cannot do as much as they used to. Work loss among people with RA is highest among people whose jobs are physically demanding. Work loss is lower among those in jobs with few physical demands, or in jobs where they have influence over the job pace and activities.
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The Importance Of Diagnosing The Right Condition
When it comes to initial symptoms, people tend to self-treat before consulting a doctor. Perhaps no harm comes from taking a stab at self-treatment, but theres likely no significant benefit either. Typically, people try common over-the-counter treatments, hoping something will make a difference. Many people who choose to self-treat find that symptoms persist. They realize they are treading water, if not getting worse, without doctors input. Others continue to self-treat or just live with their symptoms, risking the consequences that come from delaying appropriate treatment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that while more than 10 million Americans have chronic joint symptoms, most have not been evaluated or treated by a doctor. Of the 2.2 million people believed to have rheumatoid arthritis in the U.S., more than 700,000 have not been diagnosed or treated. Of the 1.5 million who have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, more than 800,000 are under the care of a primary care physician, not a rheumatologist .
Few joints may be involved in the initial consultation with a doctor. There may not be much revealed when results come back from blood tests or X-rays. But your doctor will order more extensive tests until a diagnosis can be made.
Inflammatory Arthritis Vs Osteoarthritis: Causes And Symptoms
Arthritis actually describes over 100 different conditions that affect joints and the surrounding tissue. They fall into two main categories: inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis .
Inflammatory arthritis is a systemic disease in which the mechanisms that normally protect your body attack your own joints and tissues instead. The most well-known example is rheumatoid arthritis its hallmark symptom is prolonged stiffness and achiness in the morning after waking up. RA also tends to be symmetrical, meaning youll have problems in the same joints on both sides of your body, like both wrists or both knees.
The second type of arthritis and the most common form is osteoarthritis. A degenerative disorder, its caused by trauma or age-related wear and tear on your joints over time. Osteoarthritis is most likely to affect weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hip, lower spine or big toe, but it can also cause pain and stiffness in your thumb or finger joints.
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Get Foot Pain Relief With Arthritis
Need some foot pain relief? If you are older than 60, you may find yourself saying Oh, my aching feet! often. According to the Arthritis Foundation, close to half of people in their sixties and seventies suffer from arthritis foot pain. In fact, the damage starts even sooner: Beginning in your forties, your feet begin to show wear and tear, explains Dennis Frisch, a doctor of podiatric medicine in Boca Raton, Florida.
Arthritis is inflammation in or around the joints that results in swelling, pain, and stiffness. It can generally be divided in two categories:
- Osteoarthritis and other wear-and-tear types of arthritis
- Inflammatory arthritis
Osteoarthritis, the most common kind of arthritis, affects millions of people worldwide. This type of arthritis occurs over time and by overuse. The cartilage between the bones at your pivotal joints wears away. As a result, your bones grind against each other, causing pain and swelling. Very often osteoarthritis also causes degeneration of the cartilage at the base of your big toe, resulting in big toe joint pain. Bony spurs then develop at the joint there, followed by pain in the big toe and decreased motion of the joint.
Arthritis in the feet causes pain and a loss of strength, flexibility, or exercise ability. For millions of people with arthritis in the feet, simple daily tasks such as walking out to get the mail can be painful. Eventually, walking may become nearly impossible.
Learn About Your Surgery Options
When foot arthritis is severe and conservative treatment options fail, surgical intervention may be an option. One type is a fusion of the big toe joint, which fuses together the two bones that make up your joint. This limits the joints range of motion, helping to eliminate the source of pain. Another option is joint replacement surgery for the toe joints. Both are considered end-game measures, but for people who are healthy enough to withstand surgery, it can allow them to function much better.
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Arthritis In The Heel And Ankle
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Several types of arthritis, including OA, RA, AS, and PsA, can affect the heels and the ankles.
Symptoms of arthritis in the heel might include:
- Stiffness upon awakening in the morning
- Recurring pain in the heel
- Swelling of the heel
- Limited movement
- Skin changes, including rashes and growths
Inflammation at the heel from RA, AS, or PsA can lead to conditions that cause heel pain. This might include Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, or retrocalcaneal bursitis, a condition in which the bursa becomes inflamed, causing pain and swelling.
The ankle is not affected by arthritis as often as other joints, but it can be a source of severe pain and instability when it is affected. Additional symptoms of ankle arthritis include swelling and stiffness of the ankle and problems with mobility. Ankle arthritis will eventually affect gaitthe way a person walks.
Most Common Types Of Arthritis In The Feet
There are several types of arthritis that can affect the feet and ankles. If youre experiencing symptoms that seem as though they could be arthritis, youre not alone. But you want to make sure youre getting the right treatment and the proper diagnosis. Whether you have symptoms that indicate top-of-foot arthritis or other areas, its important to find out the real root cause of your pain. You can get your arthritis pain treated more successfully if you know exactly what type of arthritis youre dealing with.
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When Conservative Treatments Arent Enough
If the treatments above dont help, or your arthritis continues to get worse, Dr. Berg may recommend surgery for your feet or ankles.
One procedure Dr. Berg may recommend is fusion surgery. With this surgery, Dr. Berg fuses specific bones together with pins, rods, plates, or screws. Another procedure Dr. Berg may recommend is joint replacement therapy. With this surgery, your damaged joints are removed and replaced with artificial joints made out of metal or plastic.
If you have arthritis in your feet or ankles, or if you want to see if you do and want to learn about treatment options, book an appointment online or over the phone with Intermountain Foot & Ankle Associates today.
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Key Points About Foot Or Ankle Arthritis
- Foot or ankle arthritis is typically caused by the general wear and tear of the foot or ankle joints. It can also be caused by injuries, fractures, sprains, or abnormal foot mechanics.
- The most common symptoms of foot or ankle arthritis are pain, joint stiffness, swelling, and reduced ability to move or walk.
- While there is not a cure for foot or ankle arthritis, offers a variety of treatments that can relieve pain and slow the progression of the disease.
- Foot or ankle arthritis can be diagnosed with a physical exam, medical history review, gait analysis, and an X-ray.
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What Is Treatment For Arthritis In The Feet
There is no cure for arthritis, but the pain associated with it can be reduced drastically for some patients. The goals of treatment are to:
- Manage symptoms
- Control inflammation
- Preserve or restore joint function
Many patients find the best foot arthritis treatment is one that uses a number of complementary therapies to find relief. A combination of natural treatments, such as orthotics and exercises, along with medication and interventional strategies can help you get back to your life.