Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle
The pain and stiffness you feel in your feet and ankles as you age could be arthritis. If left untreated, this nagging pain can get worse over time, eventually making it difficult to walk even short distances. Severe arthritis can restrict your mobility, but with proper treatment, you can minimize the pain and maximize your quality of life.
Arthritis is a broad term for a number of conditions that destroy the workings of a normal joint. Arthritis may occur in your back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders or hands, as well as your feet and ankles. Almost half of people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis of the foot and/or ankle, but not all of them have symptoms.
There are many different types of arthritis. The most common type, osteoarthritis, results from wear and tear to joint cartilage, the cushioning between joints that allows them to glide smoothly. The damage can cause inflammation, redness, swelling, and pain in the joint.
Also, a sudden and traumatic injury such as a broken bone, torn ligament, or moderate ankle sprain can cause the injured joint to become arthritic in the future. Sometimes a traumatic injury will result in arthritis in the injured joint even though the joint received proper medical care at the time of injury. This type of arthritis, called post-traumatic arthritis, is the most common type that affects the ankle.
Another less common type, rheumatoid arthritis, is an inflammatory condition caused by an irritation of the joint lining. Other types of inflammatory arthritis include gout, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis.
The foot has 26 bones and more than 30 joints. Tough bands of tissue called ligaments hold these together. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments work together with the many joints of the foot to control motion and weight bearing position. This smooth motion makes it possible for a person to walk well. When you get arthritis in the foot, you develop pain and limited motion so that you cannot walk as well.
Arthritis can develop in any of these joints but some are more commonly affected than others. A foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon can help you locate the source of your pain and determine the best course of treatment.
If your foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon suspects you have arthritis, he or she will ask you to have a complete medical history and physical examination. X-rays and laboratory tests often can confirm the type and extent of the arthritis. Other tests such as a bone scan, CT scan, or MRI may be used to evaluate your condition.