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Arthritis what is it?

Arthritis pertains to the swelling and inflammation of the lining of the joints. This condition has many causes and can be associated with a variety of different illnesses.

The foot has 33 joints and due to the weight bearing load on the feet they can be more susceptible to arthritis.

Over more than 40 million Americans can be disabled with arthritis. It seems to be influenced by heredity, age where people over 50 years of age or more affected. Feet with arthritis can result in loss of mobility.

Major Causes

In addition to heredity, arthritic symptoms may arise in many different ways:

  • Injuries that have been ignored often in athletes or industrial workers.
  • Bacterial and viral infections that affect joints.
  • In conjunction with bowel disorders frequently resulting in arthritic conditions in the joints of the ankles and toes.
  • Using drugs, both prescription drugs and otherwise, can induce arthritis.
  • A defective gene may play a role in osteoarthritis.


Typical types and symtoms

Osteoarthritis:This is the most common form of arthritis. It is frequently called degenerative joint. It is usually brought on suddenly by an injury, its onset is generally gradual; aging brings on a breakdown in cartilage, and pain gets progressively more severe,. Dull, throbbing nighttime pain is typical. It is a particular problem for the feet when people are overweight, simply because there are so many joints in each foot. The additional weight contributes to the deterioration of cartilage and can influence the development of bone spurs.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): this is the most crippling type and the most serious form of arthritis. Chronic inflammatory system of diseases, often affecting more than a dozen smaller joints—both ankles, or the index fingers of both hands, are typical examples. Lengthy morning stiffness, fatigue, and weight loss—and it may affect various systems of the body, such as the eyes, lungs, heart, and nervous system. Women usually suffer from this type of arteritis more than men.

RA is often characterized by alternating periods of remission, during which symptoms disappear, and exacerbation. Serious joint deformity and loss of motion often result from acute RA.

Gout (gouty arthritis): Gout is caused by a buildup of the salts of uric acid—a normal by product of the diet—in the joints. A common occurrence is usually in the big toe. Men are much more likely to be afflicted than women, an indication that heredity may play a role in the disease. While a rich diet that contains lots of red meat, rich sauces, shellfish, and brandy is popularly associated with gout, there are other protein compounds in foods such as lentils and beans that may play a role.

Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriasis is often thought of as a skin disorder, but it can affect the joints as well. On the skin, psoriasis appears as dry, scaly patches. Not all people with psoriasis of the skin will develop joint symptoms—about one in twenty people with psoriasis will develop associated arthritis. The arthritis may be mild and involve only a few joints, particularly those at the ends of the fingers or toes. People who also have arthritis usually have the skin and nail changes of psoriasis. Often, the skin gets worse at the same time as the arthritis.

Traumatic arthritis: this type of arthritis is caused by blunt, penetrating, or repeated trauma or from forced inappropriate motion of a joint or ligament.


When to Visit a Podiatrist

Artritis can affect the structure and function of the feet, so it is important to see a board certified doctor of podiatric medicine if any of these symtoms:

  • Swelling in joints
  • Recurring pain or soreness in any joint
  • Redness in a joint
  • Limitation in range of motion of joint
  • Early morning stiffness or swelling
  • Skin changes, including rashes and growths


Treatment and Diagnosis

Different forms of arthritis affect the body in differently. Early diagnosis is critical for treatment of any form of this condition.. Destruction of cartilage is not reversible, and if the inflammation of arthritic disease isn’t treated, both cartilage and bone can be damaged. Usually most forms of arthritis cannot be cured. Most can be controlled or brought into remission; perhaps only five percent of the most serious cases, usually of rheumatoid arthritis, result in such severe disability.

The objectives in the treatment of arthritis are controlling inflammation, preserving joint function. Because the foot is such a frequent target, the doctor of podiatric medicine is often the first physician to encounter some of the complaints—inflammation, pain, stiffness, excessive warmth, injuries. Even bunions can be manifestations of arthritis.

Arthritis may be treated in many ways. Patient education is important. Physical therapy and exercise may be indicated, accompanied by medication. In such a complex disease system, it is no wonder that a wide variety of drugs have been used effectively to treat it; likewise, a given treatment may be very effective in one patient and almost no help at all to another. Aspirin is still the first-line drug of choice for most forms of arthritis and the benchmark against which other therapies are measured.

The control of foot functions with shoe inserts called orthotics, or with braces or specially prescribed shoes, may be recommended. Surgical intervention is a last resort in arthritis.

 Prevention is key

Not all types of arthritis are preventable. Correcting any faulty mechanics may help osteoarthritis. Custom orthotics from your podiatrist will make sure that the foot and ankle joints are properly aligned. Controlling the uric acid level in people prone to gout helps to prevent gout related arthritis.


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Dr. Gregory M. Jansyn