What is arthritis?

Did you know that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America? The term “arthritis” means “pain in a joint.” Because of this, the term is used broadly to refer to numerous conditions.

There is no cure for arthritis. However, many treatment options are now available. It’s important to seek medical care at the first sign of symptoms, so that medical intervention can begin as soon as possible. Arthritis treatment helps people stay active, manage pain and live full lives, usually without undergoing surgery.

What types of arthritis can affect my feet and ankles?

There are three types that affect your feet and ankles:

  • Gout — Often apparent in the joint of the big toe, this type of arthritis is caused by the build up of uric acid in the blood. Oftentimes, drinking more water, changing your diet and exercising can help reduce and help prevent future gout attacks.
  • Osteoarthritis – This is often called “wear and tear” arthritis. It’s most common in people who are middle aged. As we grow older, the smooth surfaces that cover the cartilage on the bones become frayed and worn. Inflammation, swelling and pain in the joint are all common symptoms.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – Contrasting with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is system-wide. It’s a type of inflammatory disease where the patient’s immune system attacks the cartilage, which in turn destroys it.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis – This is most common after an injury to the feet or ankles. Post-traumatic arthritis may develop years later after a fracture, ligament injury or a severe sprain.

What causes arthritis?

Each types of arthritis described above has a different cause. There are many factors that increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Cartilage’s ability to heal itself decreases as we age, so older individuals are more at risk. Obesity and family history can also increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis.

The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. It’s not an inherited disease, however, people who have certain genes may be more susceptible. A trigger, like an infection or something in the environment, activates these genes. Once the body is exposed, the immune system produces substances that attack the joints.

Lastly, fractures and dislocations are the main causes of post-traumatic arthritis. A joint that is injured is up to seven more times likely to become arthritic, even if proper treatment is administered. Did you know that following an injury, the body can produce hormones that stimulate the death of your cartilage cells?

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Symptoms and signs of arthritis in the foot often vary, depending on the affected joint. The most common symptoms are:

  • Tenderness or pain
  • Stiffness or lack of motion
  • Swelling
  • Trouble walking

How is arthritis treated?

Arthritis of the foot or ankle can be treated surgically or conservatively. The nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications that reduce swelling
  • Orthotics or shoe inserts
  • Prescription shoes
  • Braces or a cane
  • Exercises or physical therapy
  • Managing weight
  • Steroid medication that’s injected into the joint

If none of the treatments listed above relive the pain, surgery may be recommended. The type of surgery performed depends on the type of arthritis. Arthroscopic debridement, arthrodesis or fusion and arthroplastyor joint replacement are the three most common types of surgeries performed. In some cases, more than one type of surgery will be needed.

Do you have pain in your feet or ankles caused by arthritis? Call Waukesha Foot Specialists at (262) 544-0700 to set up a treatment plan. We serve the Waukasha, New Berlin, Brookfield and Milwaukee areas. Foot specialists Amy Miller-Guhl and David Guhl will work with you to get your back on your feet again.

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