Arthritis, the term used to describe the inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints, is generally accompanied by an increase in joint fluid, and certainly affects the lower part of your body, making the normal activities of walking and moving very difficult.
Doctors have already pinpointed over 130 different types of arthritis. By the year 2020, one out of five people will be affected.
Joints allow us to perform movements, from bending our knees to elbows to standing up and sitting down. Unfortunately, when a joint is damaged, moving that joint can be quite painful. The foot, with 33 joints, is particularly susceptible to this condition.
Types of Arthritis:
The two most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease characterized by non-specific inflammation of the joints of the hands and feet. This chronic disease may lead to joint destruction, and typically causes severe forefoot problems such as bunions, hammertoes, and others.
Osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, is common in the geriatric population, and affects one or more joints. Predisposing factors include aging, obesity and trauma. Bony changes such as spurring, cartilage destruction, cystic changes and joint space narrowing may also occur.
Arthritis can be caused by a number of factors:
- Heredity: Does a close, perhaps older family member have arthritis? If yes, you could be at a higher risk.
- Injury and Strain: Athletes and industrial workers should especially take care to avoid injury, and go to the doctor if a joint is afflicted. Ignoring an injury can contribute to arthritis as well.
- Infections: Bacteria and virus infections can affect the joints, causing arthritis.
- Disorders: Ailments such as colitis and ileitis can often cause arthritic conditions to strike the ankle and toe joints.
- Drug Use: Both prescription and illegal drugs can bring on arthritis.
Arthritis can affect the structure and function of crucial feet joints, so it's important to take note of any symptoms and go to the doctor if necessary.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, the following signs may be symptomatic of arthritis:
- Early morning stiffness
- Swelling in one or more joints
- Recurring pain or tenderness in any joint
- Redness or heat in a joint
- Limited movement of any joint
- Skin changes, including rashes and growths
The purpose of arthritis treatment is to control joint inflammation, and allow as much joint movement as possible.
Arthritis can be treated in many ways, but the first step is educating yourself on the signs and treatments. You're already one step closer to finding relief, which can be achieved through:
- Physical therapy
- Exercise, especially low-impact activities such as swimming
- Anti-inflammatory creams or topical arthritis medicines such as DynaFreeze
- Medication, such as aspirin
- Over-the-counter Glucosamine & Chondroitin supplements
- Supportive footwear, such as good shoes with a high and wide toe box that can accommodate distorted toes
- Removable insoles or other shoe orthotics
- Rocker bottom soles to facilitate walking and reduce stress on the ball of the foot
- Foot, ankle and knee supports
- Digital accommodative devices to protect and straighten the toes
In more advanced stages, surgical intervention with joint replacement or realignment may be necessary to treat disabling conditions. Joints are not supposed to hurt anywhere in the body, so if they do, visit your physician to find out what alternatives are available to alleviate arthritis pain.
Information on foot, leg and lower body health conditions provided by The Podiatry Institute, dedicated to advancing the standard of care in podiatric medicine and its effects on muscoskeletal health.