How Does Arthritis Affect the Feet?

For those who have been paying attention, (and no, there won’t be a test, and no that line isn’t funny anymore, and yes we can stop using it), we have been discussing various types of arthritis and how they affect the foot and ankle in the past few weeks.  This week we will discuss the systemic types of arthritis – those that affect the whole body.

As we have discussed, at its core, arthritis is a term connoting inflammation of a joint, due to breakdown of cartilage secondary to trauma, wear and tear, or disease.  This inflammation manifests as pain that may affect various joints in different patterns of pain and dysfunction.  There are various systemic types of arthritis that may affect multiple joints at the same time, and may also manifest other signs such as fatigue, weakness, and even kidney and eye problems.  Perhaps the most well known of these diseases is Rheumatoid arthritis, which is essentially an autoimmune disorder against the joints.  This initially presents as swelling and pain and can ultimately lead to severe pain and limitation of motion. Other common systemic arthritis conditions are psoriatic arthritis, which is secondary to psoriasis as the name implies, ankylosing spondylitis, and fibromyalgia.  These conditions all manifest in different ways, however they can all affect the feet.

Generally, initial treatment consists of medical management of the disease, appropriate medication for pain and other symptoms, and, of course, the judicious use of orthotics.  As the pain and damage becomes more severe, surgery may be an option to replace or fuse a painful and non-functioning joint.  As with any type of arthritis we have discussed, it is critically important to maintain function for as long as possible through a regimen of regular range of motion and exercise.

So, to conclude our series and sum it all up, arthritis is a drag.  However, there are ways to manage the drag-ness.  Keep active, and make sure that your feet have the care they need.  Consider a visit to your friendly local foot doc.  It’s better than drugs, and it might even be better than Cats.

See you in the office.

Ernest Isaacson