Arthritis of the foot

The feet are more susceptible to arthritis than other parts of the body because each foot has 33 joints that can be aggravated and there is no way to avoid the pain of the weight-bearing load on the feet. Arthritis of the foot is described as inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints in the foot and is often accompanied by an increase in the fluid in the joints. Arthritis affects over 40 million Americans and is most common among people over the age of 50. Arthritis of the foot can result in a loss of mobility and independence, however, early diagnosis and proper medical treatment can help to significantly reduce the symptoms. The causes for foot arthritis are many, including, heredity, overuse injuries, bacterial/viral infections, bowel disorders, use of drugs (prescription or otherwise).


There are various types of foot arthritis, with the most common being the following:

Osteoarthritis - Osteoarthritis is the most common form of foot arthritis and occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. It's often called a degenerative joint disease where the cartilage experiences a significant amount of wear and tear over a long period of time.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) - Rheumatoid arthritis is quite possibly the most serious form of arthritis as it is a major crippling disorder. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing a painful swelling, resulting in joint deformity and bone erosion. Rheumatoid arthritis is three to four times more likely to occur in women and may affect various systems of the body such as eyes, heart, lungs, skin, and the nervous system.

Gout (Gouty Arthritis) - Gout is a complex form of arthritis caused by a buildup of the uric acid salts in the joints. Gout is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, typically in the big toe as it is subject to the most amount of pressure in walking. Gout most commonly occurs in men over the age of 40, however, women become increasingly susceptible to gout post menopause.

Psoriatic Arthritis - Psoriasis, a skin disease distinguished by red patches of skin with silvery scales, can affect joints as well in the form of psoriatic arthritis. Approximately 5% of individuals diagnosed with psoriasis are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint problems can often begin long before the skin lesions appear.

Traumatic Arthritis - Traumatic arthritis is caused by repeated trauma to the articular cartilage. This is most common among individuals who were/are athletic or active. Injuries to joints such as a fracture or sprain can cause major damage to the articular cartilage, which leads to arthritic changes in the joint over time.


Individuals who have developed some form of foot arthritis experience some of these symptoms:

  • Persistent or recurring pain in any joint in the foot
  • Redness or extreme heat in a joint in the foot
  • Swelling in one or more joints in the foot
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning in one or more joints in the foot
  • Unexplained changes in the skin such of rashes or growths
  • Limited range of motion in one or more joints in the foot

As previously mentioned, early diagnosis and treatment of foot arthritis can greatly help in reducing symptoms and potentially curing some forms of foot arthritis. Therefore, it is strongly advised to visit a physician if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms or suspect foot arthritis.


Diagnosis of foot arthritis is generally made upon a combination of physical examination as well as imaging studies. The physician will examine the foot for the symptoms mentioned above and to determine the range of motion. The physician may order an X-ray of the foot to help identify the form of foot arthritis as well as the severity of the condition.


Different forms or arthritis require different treatments as each form affects the body in different ways. Early diagnosis of the condition is extremely important to effective treatment of any form of foot arthritis. Unfortunately, most forms of foot arthritis cannot be cured entirely, but can be controlled or significantly reduced. The main objective of foot arthritis treatment is controlling inflammation, preserving or restoring the function of the joint, and if possible, curing it. Non-operative treatments have proven to be very effective in treating various forms of foot arthritis and operative treatment is always a last resort.

Medication - Pain relief medication such as acetaminophen as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) can significantly reduce pain and swelling.

Physical Therapy - Physical Therapists will often prescribe exercise programs designed to ensure proper function of the joints in the foot and in reducing pain and discomfort. They might even recommend a brace or orthotics shoes depending on the individual's condition to control the foot functions and distribute the pressure more evenly.

Surgery - Surgery may be an option when more-conservative treatments don't relive pain caused by severe foot arthritis. Options must be discussed extensively with the physician to identify the appropriate surgical procedure.


Recovery, especially after a surgery, can take several weeks if not months. Each patient is unique and their recover will depend on the treatment method prescribed by the physician.




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