Arthritis is a very familiar word to most of us, and it affects a very large amount of people across the world. It is a condition that involves the inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints, generally accompanied by an increase in the fluid in the joints, and can be a disabling and occasionally crippling disease. Although the prevalence of arthritis increases with age, all people from infancy to middle age are potential victims. People over 50 are the main targets.
Because each foot has 33 joints, the feet are more susceptible to arthritis than other parts of the body – a fact that can result in loss of mobility and independence. However, early diagnosis and proper medical care can limit or slow the damage.
The most common form of arthritis is Osteoarthritis. It is often called degenerative joint disease or wear and tear arthritis. It results from a breakdown in cartilage, and pain gets progressively more severe. Dull, throbbing pain is characteristic, and may be accompanied by muscle weakness or deterioration. Many of these symptoms can be relieved with rest. Obese and overweight people are particularly susceptible to osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis a complex, chronic inflammatory group of diseases, often affecting more than a dozen smaller joints. In the foot, it frequently affects both ankles and toes.
The most common symptoms of arthritis include:
- Stiffness, particularly immediately after rising.
- Limited joint flexibility.
- Recurring pain or tenderness in a joint.
- Skin changes, including rashes and growths.
- Swelling in one or more joints.
Arthritis of the foot and ankle can be treated in many ways, including:
- Physical therapy and exercise.
- Anti-inflammatory medication and/or steroid injections into the affected joint.
- Orthotics or specially prescribed shoes.