Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more of the joints that are found in your foot or ankles. It can cause a broad area of pain and discomfort as well as stiffness making it more difficult to walk and perform activities of daily living. There are many types of arthritis, of which a few are listed below, which affect the joints of your ankles and feet.
The most common type is osteoarthritis, where the articular cartilage between bones gradually becomes worn down. The space which lubricates the joints can get inflamed and narrowed, which results in pain, stiffness and difficulty walking. Another type of arthritis found in the foot is rheumatoid arthritis. It is a chronic disease that typically affects both feet symmetrically. It is an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks its own tissue. The outer covering of the joint, known as the synovium can eventually invade the bone, ligaments, tendons and cartilage causing disability and deformity. Rheumatoid nodules can appear on the ball of the feet that become painful with prolonged standing and ambulation. The last type of arthritis called postraumatic arthritis where the cartilage between the joints is damaged from an injury. This can occur with a broken bone if it occurs within the joint itself. Injured joints are much more likely to develop arthritis than an uninjured joint.
After a complete examination of the foot and ankle, many times your podiatrist will take x-rays to evaluate the bones and joints. A simple blood test may also be ordered to rule out rheumatoid arthritis. There is no cure all for the treatment of arthritis. The main goal is to decrease the pain in the ankle and/or foot and to improve joint function. Oral medications, orthotics and other assistive devices may be used to help treat the underlying problem. Surgical options are also available if conservative treatment continues to fail.