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Arthritis is a broad term involving conditions that cause the cartilage (gliding surface and padding) of a joint to break down, much like the tread on tires of a car can wear down. Loss of cartilage in a joint can cause painful motion and swelling. When it impacts the foot and ankle, the pain and discomfort can be distressing, given these areas support the body's weight and for movement. Here's a closer look at foot and ankle arthritis, its causes, symptoms, and available treatments.
What Causes Foot and Ankle Arthritis?
The foot and ankle together consist of 33 joints, and any of these can be affected by arthritis. The primary cause of foot and ankle arthritis is the wear and tear of cartilage, the tissue that cushions the bones in the joints, resulting in bone-on-bone contact. Common causes include:
Symptoms to Watch Out For
Foot and ankle arthritis can be progressive. Initial symptoms might be mild, gradually becoming more pronounced over time:
Since arthritis is degenerative, meaning it tends to worsen over time, several treatment options can manage symptoms and improve quality of life:
How to Prevent Arthritis from Progressing:
Although it is impossible to completely prevent arthritis from developing, there are some things that can be done to slow its progression, so it is important to take an active role and seek treatment from a medical professional early to control pain, reduce damage to joints, and avoid surgery.
“Maintaining a proper diet and healthy lifestyle is helpful. Low-impact exercises such as biking, swimming, or rowing will limit stress on the joints. Try to avoid high-impact activities like running, and this puts more stress on the joints and can accelerate joint wear. In addition, wearing sturdy, supportive shoes that provide good support and avoiding poorly supportive shoes such as flip flops that don’t support your arch or ankle is always a good idea.” said Dr. Daniel Cuttica, orthopedic surgeon at The Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Center.
Foot and ankle arthritis can cause significant challenges, affecting mobility and overall quality of life. Early diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment approach can effectively manage symptoms and slow progression. If you suspect arthritis or experience persistent foot or ankle pain, consult with an orthopaedic surgeon at The Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Center to determine the best course of action.