Foot and ankle arthritis is a chronic condition that causes your joints to become swollen and generally irritated. Over time, this causes pain, inflammation, and in serious cases, immobility.
There are several types of foot and ankle arthritis, including:
Osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear arthritis, occurs when cartilage –– a soft, cushion-like substance that pads your joints –– breaks down and wears away. This causes your bones to rub up against one another, resulting in stiffness and discomfort.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack the lining of your joints (synovium). As the synovium becomes swollen and irritated, it damages the bone, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments in your feet and ankles. Over time, this can result in a deformity or disability.
If you experience a foot and ankle fracture or dislocate your ankle, you might develop post-traumatic arthritis. Like osteoarthritis, post-traumatic arthritis causes your cartilage to wear away. Research shows that injured joints are about seven times more likely to become arthritic compared to healthy joints.
Arthritic foot and ankle care is a branch of podiatry focused on diagnosing and treating foot and ankle arthritis. Your doctor works with each patient to treat pain, improve mobility, and prevent further complications.
There’s no cure for foot and ankle arthritis, but it’s possible to keep symptoms in check. With proper care, you can return to your favorite activities, including walking, playing sports, or biking and swimming.
An arthritic foot and ankle care appointment begins with a review of your medical history and a discussion of your lifestyle and symptoms. Afterward, your provider physically examines your feet and ankles, checking for areas of warmth, tenderness, and swelling.
Next, your physician has you walk around the exam room and perform a series of range-of-motion exercises. This allows them to observe your gait and posture. They also order lab tests and diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI, to rule out other potential problems like a fracture or dislocated joint.
Treatment of foot and ankle arthritis depends on the severity of your symptoms and their effect on your quality of life. Usually, the Colorado Foot + Ankle Sports Medicine team recommends conservative, noninvasive measures like losing weight to reduce stress on your joints, minimizing activities that aggravate the condition, and switching from high-impact to low-impact activities.
If your pain persists or gets worse, you might benefit from physical therapy, supportive devices like braces or custom orthotics, and prescription medications. If your arthritis is severe, surgical intervention may be necessary.
To learn more about the benefits of arthritic foot and ankle care, schedule an appointment at Colorado Foot and Ankle Sports Medicine. Call the office to speak with a friendly staff member or book a consultation online today.