What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation and swelling of the lining of joint with damage to the cartilage. Arthritis can be a disabling and even crippling disease that affects nearly 40 million Americans. Risk for arthritis increases with age, but it can affect anyone from infants to those in middle age. Arthritis is most common in Individuals over the age of 50.
Arthritis can cause pain and loss of mobility, but if diagnosed early, symptoms can be reduced and controlled.
Causes of arthritis
- Hereditary: Arthritis can be passed genetically, often resulting in development in earlier stages of life
- Injuries: Joint injuries (especially if they’re ignored) can lead to arthritis, especially in athletes and heavy laborers
- Infection: Bacteria and viruses that strike the joints, such as those found in pneumonia, gonorrhea, staph, and Lyme disease, can cause arthritic inflammations
- Drugs: Some prescription drugs, as well as illegal drugs and abuse of legal drugs, can cause joint inflammation
- Bowel disorders: Some bowel disorders, such as colitis and ileitis, can cause inflammation that can lead to arthritic issues in ankles and toes
Common types of arthritis
- Osteoarthritis: This is the most common form of arthritis. It usually occurs slowly over time, though it can also be the result of a traumatic injury. Osteoarthritis is the breaking down of cartilage accompanied by severe pain. Obesity can cause osteoarthritis to develop in your feet and ankles due to the pressure from excess weight. Osteoarthritis often affects the ability to walk normally.
Rheumatoid arthritis: This form of arthritis is notorious for being crippling. It grows much more slowly over time than osteoarthritis, and during its development it will go through periods of remission, in which symptoms disappear. But when they return, the pain, inflammation, and loss of mobility are severe.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects many small joints, often in a symmetrical pattern on both limbs. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include fatigue, weight loss, and lengthy morning stiffness. Women are more likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis than men.
- Gout (gouty arthritis): This condition is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints. Gout commonly affects the big toe joints, since this joint is constantly under pressure from walking and standing. Gouty arthritis can be extremely painful. Gout can be the result of a poor diet as well as genetics. Men are more susceptible to gout than women.
- Psoriatic arthritis: This skin disease, marked by dry, scaly patches on your skin, can also cause arthritic inflammation in 1 out of every 20 psoriasis patients. This arthritis is usually more mild than other forms and may affect only the fingers and toes.
- Traumatic arthritis: A traumatic injury to a joint or ligament, such as an ankle sprain, can result in damage to the cartilage in that area. This damage can quickly or gradually lead to arthritis.
Since arthritis comes in many forms, it’s important to observe the development of the following symptoms and visit a podiatrist if you experience any of them:
- Swelling in a joint
- Chronic pain or tenderness in a joint
- Limited mobility of a joint
- Joint redness or heat
- Prolonged joint stiffness in the morning
- Development of dry and scaly patches of skin
Since the various forms of arthritis are accompanied by different symptoms, it’s important to see your podiatrist if you exhibit any symptoms in your feet. Arthritis is most treatable when diagnosed early, before inflammation causes permanent damage to bones and cartilage.
Arthritis is usually incurable, but the symptoms and pain can be controlled and remediated.
Treatments for arthritis include the following:
- Preserving or restoring joint function
- Physical therapy and exercise
- Prescription medication
- Orthotics, braces, and specially prescribed footwear
- Surgery (in the most severe cases when a damaged joint needs to be replaced by an artificial joints)
Since arthritis may be hereditary, it isn’t always preventable. Maintaining a healthy diet will go far in helping prevent gouty arthritis, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent the development of osteoarthritis in your feet and ankles. Custom orthotics can also ensure your joints are aligning properly, helping prevent development of arthritis due to misalignment of joints.