Brooklyn Podiatrists Treat Arthritis of the Foot & Ankle

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in our country. It can occur at any age, and literally means "pain within a joint." Although arthritis of the feet cannot be cured, it can be treated by foot doctors. There are many treatment options available. It is important to start treatment early so that relief can begin as soon as possible. With treatment, people with arthritis are able to manage pain, and stay active, often without surgery.

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Types of Arthritis affecting foot and ankle

There are three types of arthritis that may affect your foot and ankle.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative or "wear and tear" arthritis, is a common problem for many people after they reach middle age. Over the years, the smooth, gliding surface covering the ends of bones (cartilage) becomes worn and frayed. This results in inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joint. Osteoarthritis progresses slowly and the pain and stiffness it causes worsens over time. Many factors increase your risk for developing osteoarthritis. Because the ability of cartilage to heal itself decreases as we age, older people are more likely to develop the disease. Other factors that increase the risk are obesity and family history of the disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Unlike osteoarthritis which follows a predictable pattern in certain joints, rheumatoid arthritis is a system-wide disease. It is an inflammatory disease where the patient's own immune system attacks and destroys cartilage. The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. Although it is not an inherited disease, researchers believe that some people have genes that make them more susceptible. There is usually a "trigger," such as an infection or environmental factor, which activates the genes. When the body is exposed to this trigger, the immune system begins to produce substances that attack the joint. This is what may lead to the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

Gouty Arthritis

Gout is another form of arthritis that also leads to foot complications. Excess uric acid crystals collect in and around the joints of the big toe. The big toe joint is commonly the focal point due to the stress and pressure it experiences during walking and other weight bearing activities. This often leads to severe pain in the big toe. Men are more likely to develop gouty arthritis than women.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the foot or ankle. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, severe sprain, or ligament injury. Fractures - particularly those that damage the joint surface - and dislocations are the most common injuries that lead to this type of arthritis. An injured joint is about seven times more likely to become arthritic, even if the injury is properly treated. In fact, following injury, your body can secrete hormones that stimulate the death of your cartilage cells.

The joints most commonly affected by arthritis in the lower extremity include:

Common Arthritis Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of arthritis of the foot vary, depending on which joint is affected. Common symptoms include:

Diagnosis

Your brooklyn podiatrist / foot doctor will base a diagnosis using your medical history, symptoms, a physical examination, and additional tests.

A medical history is important to understand more about the problem. Your foot doctor / podiatrist will want to know when the pain started and when it occurs. Is it worse at night? Does it get worse when walking or running? Is it continuous, or does it come and go? He will want to know if there was a past injury to the foot or ankle. If so, your podiatrist will discuss your injury, when it occurred, and how it was treated. Your foot doctor will want to know if the pain is in both feet or only in one foot, and where it is located exactly. Footwear will be examined, and any medications will be noted.

One of the tests performed by a foot doctor during the physical examination is the gait analysis. This shows how the bones in the leg and foot line up with walking, measures stride, and tests the strength of the ankles and feet. X-rays can show changes in the spacing between bones or in the shape of the bones themselves. Weight-bearing X-rays are the most valuable additional test in diagnosing the severity of arthritis. A bone scan, computed tomographic (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance image (MRI) may also be used in the evaluation.  

Treatment

Depending on the type, location, and severity of the arthritis, there are many types of treatment available.

Nonsurgical treatment options include:

Surgical treatment options: 

If arthritis doesn't respond to nonsurgical treatment, surgical treatment might be considered. The choice of surgery will depend on the type of arthritis, the impact of the disease on the joints, and the location of the arthritis. Sometimes more than one type of surgery will be needed.

Surgery performed for arthritis of the foot and ankle include