Arthritic Foot & Ankle Care
Osteoarthritis is the condition of breakdown and loss of cartilage in joints. Cartilage is the tissue at the end of bones which cushions bones during movement. The cartilage is extremely important and when it deteriorates it causes pain and eliminates one's ability to easily perform daily activities.
Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis often develops with the aging process. Osteoarthritis is often referred to just as arthritis although arthritis is a blanket term for many different types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis can occur in multiple joints throughout the body. When occurring in the foot the most common place for development is the big toe but can also occur in the midfoot and ankle.
Osteoarthritis of the Foot and Ankle
Osteoarthritis is a wear and tear disease because the cartilage on the bone will deteriorate and get thinner with time as it is continued to be used. Bones may eventually rub together when there is no more cartilage protection and this will cause pain and inflammation in the joint.
An injury can also lead to osteoarthritis although it can take months or even years for the condition to develop. An injury to the big toe such as a crush injury or a jam often leads to osteoarthritis while an injury to the midfoot such as a crush injury or a sprain or fracture can lead to osteoarthritis. Development of osteoarthritis in the ankle is usually from a fracture but can occasionally be caused by a severe sprain.
Osteoarthritis can also develop from foot arch deformities. Flat foot can cause less stability in the ligaments which will cause strain on the joints leading to arthritis. High arch also causes risk for osteoarthritis because of rigidness and low mobility.
Osteoarthritis can lead to the following symptoms:
• Pain and stiffness in the joint
• Difficulty walking or bending the joint
• Swelling in or near the joint
Diagnosis of osteoarthritis can be done with an examination of the foot for swelling and limited mobility with pain during movement. In some cases when a deformity or spur is present, x-rays may be done to determine the severity of the disease.
• Oral Medication - NSAIDs such as ibuprofen are often helping to reduce inflammation. Occasionally prescription medication is needed to reduce symptoms.
• Bracing - Bracing will help with limiting movement of the join and reducing pain while walking which can prevent further deformity.
• Immobilization - Protection from movement may be needed to allow for the proper resolution of the inflammation.
• Orthotic Devices - Custom shoe inserts may be needed to provide the foot with better support and improvement mechanics during walking allowing for cushioning and minimized pain.
• Physical Therapy - Especially for ankle osteoarthritis, exercises to strengthen the muscles will help with stability and prevent further injury with improved strength.
• Steroid Injections - Some cases require steroid injections to the joint to deliver anti-inflammatory medication.
When nonsurgical treatments do not succeed in relieving pain and reducing inflammation surgery may be necessary. The goal of surgery is to reduce pain and improve the function of the joint. The podiatrist will determine the necessary surgery based on the different factors involved in the specific patient's condition and lifestyle.