Arthritis is a broad term that can refer to any condition causing pain, stiffness, and loss of function in your joints. Although often associated with getting older, arthritic feet can affect individuals of all ages and activity levels.

If ignored, arthritis almost always worsens, eventually causing significant pain and robbing you of your ability to walk more than a short distance or enjoy an active lifestyle. Some arthritic conditions can even cause deformity in your foot shape. Fortunately, Northwest Extremity Specialists offer many treatments to help you manage foot and ankle arthritis, reduce painful symptoms, and live as actively and independently as possible.

Types of Foot & Ankle Arthritis

There are dozens of different types of arthritis. Below, read about some of the most common kinds we see and treat at Northwest Extremity Specialists.

Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Arthritis)

Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic arthritic condition, with more than 25 million sufferers in the United States.

In a healthy joint, the ends of adjoining bones are covered in cartilage. This soft-yet-rubbery tissue acts as a cushion, allowing the bones in the joint to articulate smoothly without grinding against one another. However, wear and tear over time can cause the cartilage to break down. As cartilage is lost, the joint may become stiff and painful, and bones may even chip off. In the most severe cases, the cartilage is almost completely gone and bone grinds against bone.

Risk factors include age, repetitive motions, obesity, and heredity.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis can be considered a subcategory of osteoarthritis. Often, a sudden trauma to a joint (such as a broken bone or torn ligament) results in early onset of arthritis in the injured joint. This may happen several years after the original injury, even if proper medical treatment was obtained at the time.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an auto-immune disease that causes damage and inflammation in joints. If you have RA, your immune system—normally responsible for fighting germs—becomes “confused” and begins attacking the synovial membranes of the joints. This causes them to swell, causing pain and restricting motion in the joint.

In severe cases, RA can cause joint deformity and shift bones out of alignment. It may affect other body systems as well, producing fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, impaired vision, etc.

Gouty Arthritis

Gouty arthritis (or simply gout) is an inflammatory condition that frequently affect the joint at the base of the big toe.

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. The acid can solidify into sharp, needle-like crystals that deposit into the joint, causing sudden (and often extremely painful) attacks. Uric acid is a byproduct of purines, chemicals that are found in high quantities in certain foods (such as organ meats, shellfish, or beer). If you produce too much uric acid, or your kidneys aren’t able to filter it efficiently enough, gout attacks may be triggered.

How Is Arthritis Treated?

An older person showing their feet and handsMany people are told that arthritis is something they must “live with,” but that’s just not true! At Northwest Extremity Specialists, our team employs a wide variety of management and treatment options for arthritis. Although your arthritis may not be “curable,” there are often still a number of effective strategies to reduce pain and stiffness, improve range of motion, and maintain an active lifestyle.

Depending on the nature of your condition, treatment options may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Injections
  • Stretching and physical therapy
  • Orthotics to relieve strain on joints
  • Padding
  • Splinting
  • Weight loss
  • Dietary modifications
  • Surgery
Pain and loss of motion in joints should never simply be “accepted” as part of getting older! Seeking treatment now can help you prevent or delay joint damage, manage symptoms, and remain active and independent. Give your local office of the Northwest Extremity Specialists a call today.