Arthritis of the Feet and Ankles
Living with arthritis in your feet and ankles can be, in a word, unbearable. You depend on your feet every day, and when joint pain and stiffness make simply walking short distances an ordeal, it can take away your ability to work, enjoy hobbies, or even rob you of your independence.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Although arthritis is currently incurable, there are a wide variety of both surgical and non-surgical options to help you manage pain and swelling, prevent further damage, and regain your mobility and independence.
Although “arthritis” is a bit of a catchall, the word describes over 100 separate, related conditions—all of which might be responsible for pain and stiffness in your joints. The most common types are described below.
The most common source of joint pain for adults in middle age and beyond, osteoarthritis can also be thought of as “wear-and-tear” or “degenerative” in nature. As we age, the once-smooth cartilage tissue covering the bone ends within a joint gradually grinds down and becomes worn. When that happens, the bones no longer glide quite as smoothly; in fact, they can become quite stiff and painful due to friction and swelling.
Because the body has a harder and harder time regenerating cartilage as it gets older, the condition is progressive, with symptoms slowly getting worse over time.
While osteoarthritis is caused by mechanical wear and tear, rheumatoid arthritis (RA for short) is an autoimmune disease in which your own immune system attacks the cartilage in your joints. It’s not clear why this happens, and unfortunately there is no cure yet. Although it isn’t inherited per se, it is believed to have a genetic component—an environmental or physiological “trigger” (like a particular infection) activates the gene, leading to the condition.
Even if properly treated and fully healed, an injury such as a broken bone or dislocation significantly increases the likelihood that arthritis will ultimately develop in the affected joint—even if it takes place years after the initial injury—and can also accelerate its onset. In addition to the mechanical damage, your body may secrete hormones in the wake of injury that damage your cartilage.
Often thought of as a separate condition, gout is a form of arthritis caused by an overload of uric acid in the blood. The acid can crystalize in joints, resulting in significant pain and swelling. Attacks are usually triggered by dietary choices (beer, red meat, seafood) and can be managed by avoiding foods rich in purines.
Treatment for Joint Pan in Feet
Dealing with arthritis is all about managing the pain and preventing the damage from getting worse. The earlier you detect the warning signs and take action, the better chance you have at limiting the damage and staying as pain-free as possible.
A wide variety of non-surgical options can be effective, especially early on. Losing weight and staying fit and healthy is often effective for all types of arthritis pain, and diet management is essential for sufferers of gout. Exercise and physical therapy can also be helpful—the stronger the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joints are, the more they can protect and support them.
Shoe inserts, such as arch supports or custom orthotics, or other physical tools like braces or canes, can deflect pressure away from aching trouble spots and help you avoid spikes in symptoms. Particularly troublesome pain may be managed through the use of over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medication (if approved by your doctor), laser therapy, or steroid injections.
In certain, serious cases, surgery may be your best bet.
Dr. Danciger has been helping patients manage foot and ankle arthritis since 1979. If you’re suffering from acute or chronic pain in your joints, don’t wait—call our office in Palm Desert and see what we can do for you. You can reach us at (760) 568 – 0108, or set up an appointment online.