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Step Ahead Of Arthritis

 Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois October 01, 2013

John Sigle, DPM, FACFAS, Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois

If you are suffering from arthritis you are not alone. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability that affects over 40 million Americans. People over age 50 are most prone to arthritis but younger people are also potential victims. The feet are more susceptible than other parts of the body because each foot has 33 joints that are subjected to the body’s weight-bearing load. Arthritic feet can be painful, and result in a loss of mobility and independence, and poorer quality of life. In some instances it can be crippling. There is no cure for arthritis but there are many treatment options to bring it into control or remission. Early detection and treatment can help to slow its progression. If you are suffering from this condition, it may be time to step ahead of arthritis by pursuing treatment.

Description of Arthritis
The simple definition of arthritis is joint inflammation (“arthr” means joint, and “itis” means inflammation). It is one of the body’s natural reactions to injury or disease that results in swelling, stiffness, and pain. The joints most commonly affected by arthritis in the foot are in the great toe joint, midfoot, hindfoot (heel bone, and inner and outer midfoot bone), and ankle joint.

Common Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis, are the most common types that affect the foot and ankle.

  • Osteoarthritis occurs in the majority of cases and is referred to as “wear and tear arthritis.” It usually develops gradually with age and presents itself during mid-life. It can also happen because of an injury and present itself in a younger person. Over time, the cartilage covering the bones becomes worn and frayed and bone-on-bone contact results in limited motion. Symptoms include swelling in the joint, stiffness, tenderness and pain, difficulty walking, bending the joint, or bearing weight. Bone spurs can also form at the joint causing blisters or calluses. Pain is more apparent at the end of the day or nighttime when the feet begin to throb and ache.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is the most serious form of arthritis and can be a crippling disorder. It is a system-wide disease that can cause chronic inflammation in over a dozen locations. Chronic inflammation in the joint lining adds to the destruction of cartilage and bone. It often presents itself in a symmetrical pattern, like in both ankles and both index fingers. It is more prevalent in women than men. The exact cause is not known but it is believed to be associated with a faulty immune system. Often, an infection or environmental condition triggers the genes, and the immune system begins to produce substances that attack the joint areas. Symptoms appear as foot deformities including abnormally big metatarsal heads (bones that connect to the toes), claw toes, ulcers, or nodules. The ankle may have a limited range of motion coupled with pain and inflammation.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis can develop from an injury to the foot or ankle. It may take years to develop much like osteoarthritis. Fractures, sprains, or ligament tears can leave joints unstable, causing the erosion of the cartilage and joint breakdown. Even treated joints are likely to become arthritic. Symptoms are stiffness and reduced motion, pain and tenderness, and inflammation. Walking, standing, or bending may be difficult.

Nonsurgical Treatment
Non-surgical treatment options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, bracing, immobilization in removable boots or castes, custom made orthotics, anti-inflammatory steroid injections, weight control, canes or walkers, pain relievers, alternative shoes, exercise, and physical therapy.

Surgical Treatment
Surgery is a viable option for end-stage arthritis when nonsurgical treatments have not worked. Your foot and ankle surgeon will select the type of surgery that is best for you. The types of surgery performed include arthroscopic debridement, fusion (arthrodesis), or joint replacement (arthroplasty), and arthrodiastasis (external fixator to maintain joint motion, correct alignment, and preserve toe length).

If you are looking for a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon or want additional information, contact Dr. Sigle at the Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois at 217-787-2700. Also, visit for additional information, videos, and articles on foot care.

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 Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois| October 01, 2013

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