Understanding the Three Main Types of Foot and Ankle Arthritis

The stiffness and pain in feet and ankle could be a sign of arthritis, a degenerative disorder that restricts mobility and limits the quality of life. If the cartilage between the bones wear off and the bones rub together, it causes inflammation in the tissue resulting in arthritis. Though arthritis commonly attacks the joints in knees, hips, and hands, it can occur in any part of the body including foot and ankle. There are three major types of arthritis of foot and ankle that we discuss in the blog post. Read on.

1. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is also called as “wear-and-tear” or “degenerative” arthritis occurs when people reach their middle age. The cartilage of the joint wears off gradually, making them rough. This also reduces the protective space between the bones, so both the bones rub against each other and produce bony projections, also called as bone spurs or osteophytes. Obesity and family history of the disease also increases the risk factor of an individual getting osteoarthritis. The pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis gets worse with time.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis might affect multiple joints of the body, and usually starts in foot and ankle. The problem is symmetrical, affecting the same joints on both the sides of the body. Rheumatoid is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system of the body attacks its own tissues. The immune cells will attack synovial membrane (a connective tissues lining the inner surface of capsules of synovial joints and tendon sheath), which causes swelling in the area. The membrane slowly damages the bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, causing severe disability and deformity in joints.

3. Posttraumatic Arthritis

An injury to the foot or ankle could cause post-traumatic arthritis. Among injuries that damage the joint surface, dislocations and fractures are the common reasons for a particular type of arthritis. The problem causes wear-off of the cartilage between the joints, and might remain undiagnosed for many years after the injury. If not treated properly, an injured joint has seven times more chances of becoming arthritic than an uninjured joint.

Treatment of Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle

Arthritis is a degenerative disorder, and medications don’t help in curing the problem. Medicines provide only some amount of relief from pain and inflammation. The doctor will recommend a regimen that includes anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, weight loss, injections, and custom-made braces. If the stiffness worsens and severely interrupts with the normal routine of the patient, the doctor may recommend a surgery to clean the arthritic joint or replace it with an artificial joint.