Used as a general term for a group of over 100 diseases, arthritis in all its forms involves pain and swelling in joints. In fact, many forms of arthritis involve the progressive degeneration of the joint leading to the loss of cartilage which cushions joints and prevents bones from rubbing together. Once the cartilage in a joint disappears, the bones rub on one another causing pain, inflammation, restricted motion, and eventually, joint deformity. Sometimes arthritis can occur through age related wear and tear while other forms of arthritis can begin suddenly due to a trigger. With 28 bones and even more joints, the opportunity for arthritis in the foot is very high over a normal person’s lifetime.
Types of Arthritis
While there is no cure for arthritis, there are three types of arthritis that typically affect the foot and ankle.
Known as the age related or wear and tear arthritis, osteoarthritis is a progressive form of the disease that occurs slowly over many years. As people age, general wear and tear or injury can cause damage to joints which can lead to pain, inflammation, and deformity. Stiffness and loss in range of motion continues to worsen over time.
While osteoarthritis is typically limited to a specific joint or joints, rheumatoid arthritis involves the entire body. In this form of the disease, the immune system attacks cartilage throughout the body causing swelling, pain, and inflammation to occur in multiple joints all at once. The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown although many doctors believe that the disease is triggered by an infection or some other environmental factor that causes the genes that code for the disease to activate.
Specifically regarding the foot, after a fracture or a dislocation that occurs near or in a joint head, arthritis is much more likely to develop.
Treatment for Arthritis
While there is no cure for arthritis, the physicians at American Foot and Leg provide a range of treatments that limit pain and swelling through medication, physical therapy or support devices.