Rheumatoid Arthritis Resources

Arthritis is a broad term for more than 100 diseases and is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Arthritis is characterized as pain or inflammation within a joint. A joint is known as an articulation in the human body. Articulations are strong connections that join bones and cartilage to one another. Each joint has a special shape and function that controls the range of motion of the connection. Joints are classified by their function

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or structure. The mostly commonly affected foot joints are between the heel bone and the inner and outer mid-foot bones, the big toe and foot bone, and articulation between the ankle and shin bone. There are three types of arthritis that affect the foot or ankle. The three general types of arthritis affecting the foot are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis mostly affects middle aged people because of its degenerative nature. It causes joint wear and tear over time, which can result in pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joint. Osteoarthritis in the foot usually occurs in the big toe, but can also be found in the mid-foot or ankle. Inflammation is caused by the deterioration of cartilage, and can be caused by kicking or jamming the toe, and from dropping heavy objects on the mid area of the foot. In addition, other abnormal conditions like flat feet or a high arch can increase the risk of osteoarthritis occurring in the foot. It is likely that bone spurs will develop in a foot that is affected by osteoarthritis. A bone spur is a bony projection that develops on the edges of the bones. Bone spurs can be undetectable for years, with no noticeable symptoms. However, if you start to notice pain, swelling or a decrease in the motion of your foot, a bone spur is likely to be the culprit. Osteoarthritis can become a debilitating diseases, because of it's potential to affect a person's ability to walk. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are many treatments available to help minimize the effects of the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when a person's own immune system attacks and destroys cartilage. The disease is more likely to affect people who are older, obese or have a family history of the disease. There is normally a trigger that causes an activation of the disease in the genes. Certain foods, stress, environmental factors, pregnancy and fatigue are common triggers of rheumatoid arthritis. In terms of the foot, rheumatoid arthritis commonly occurs is in the forefoot. Also, pain and inflammation in the foot can develop in the heel of the foot, causing a common foot disorder called 'plantar fasciitis'. Plantar fasciitis occurs when there is considerable swelling at the heel of the foot. In addition, Sjogrens syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, can result due to glands being restricted from releasing moisture to other parts of the body. This syndrome can then cause problems with dryness in your eyes, nose or throat. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include long-lasting stiffness in the joint, symmetrical pain that occurs in both extremities (like both feet) and general aching in the foot.

Post-traumatic arthritis, similar to osteoarthritis, normally develops after a traumatic injury to the foot. This condition develops over years after a person has experienced a fracture or severe sprain of the foot. Fractures and dislocations are the most common injuries that cause post-traumatic arthritis. To put it simply, once you injure your foot, your foot is never the same. When you heal from a fracture or dislocation, cartilage that has been ripped away does not grow back, resulting in more friction in your joints. Cartilage is replaced with scar tissue, and this does not provide the same support or cushion in the joint because it is an un-smooth, abnormal formation. In addition, after a joint heals from a fracture or ligament tear, it often becomes unstable, which results in a change in the movement of the joint. Like osteoarthritis, many of the symptoms are the same. Decreased motion, pain, swelling, a tight feeling in the foot, lack of flexibility and fluid accumulation in the foot are all symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis. It is recommended that you schedule a visit with your physician for a proper diagnosis if you experience any symptoms of arthritis following an injury. The doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, family history and may take x-rays to diagnosis your arthritic condition. The doctor will recommend treatments that may be either non-surgical or surgical, but this normally will occur after giving you some preventative steps to take while at home.

Although there is no cure, there are many ways to treat your foot arthritis. Foot arthritis doesn't normally start to affect individuals until they are over the age of 40. Wearing properly fitting shoes with the proper arch support is a great preventative step to help deter the onset of foot arthritis. Your shoes should have a great support, and preferably have a rubber sole. Shoe inserts or custom made shoes may also help reduce the symptoms of foot arthritis. Toning athletic shoes offer great support for people who are experiencing foot arthritis. Other non-surgical treatments include foot massages, foot exercise, foot support and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Foot massages are said to help relieve the pain of foot arthritis in most cases. A variety of exercises to help with foot arthritis, such as the Achilles stretches, big-toe stretches and toe pull exercises can improve symptoms of arthritis in the foot, as well. In addition, simply wiggling your toes frequently, such as during commercials while watching your favorite television program, can help stimulate the feet and improve symptoms.

Exercise and massage can also be combined with taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication that will aid in reducing the swelling of foot. You may also consider applying a topical ointment like Icy Hot to the foot to help reduce pain.

In cases of severe debilitating pain, steroid medications may be injected into the joint, or a surgical procedure may be recommended to help alleviate symptoms. There are a few surgeries available to treat your foot arthritis, and often you may have more than one type of surgery. Arthrodesis is a surgery that involves fusing bones together with rods, pins or screws. Another surgery, called Arthroplasty, involves surgically replacing the joint altogether. As mentioned earlier, more than one surgery may be needed to alleviate your symptoms, and a surgery is a very serious treatment for arthritis, so your doctor may wish to try several other treatment methods before resorting to surgical treatment options.