When you think of arthritis, what comes to mind? It wouldn’t be terribly surprising if you thought about a condition causing joint pain and discomfort for older individuals. In some cases, this is fairly spot-on. Of course, there are also cases where it isn’t quite accurate as well.
The actual word “arthritis” can be broken down to mean inflammation (“-itis”) of a joint (“arthron”). Contrary to popular misconception, arthritis is not a single condition. Instead, there are numerous conditions which can cause swelling in joints. When it comes to the 30+ joints in the foot and ankle, there are a handful of specific types of arthritis we may treat for our patients.
Depending on an array of factors, we may be able to help you find relief from arthritis pain via either conservative or surgical treatment. Your first step in finding that relief is to contact our team at Podiatry Associates.
Which Arthritic Conditions Affect Feet and Ankles?
As we look at the different causes of joint pain in the lower limbs, it is possible to develop any of the following:
Osteoarthritis (OA) – If your initial thought about arthritis is something along the lines of “a condition caused by natural wear and tear over time,” you are really thinking about OA. In this condition, the protective joint linings become worn down to the point it can be painful to move an affected joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – In this form of arthritis, the problem isn’t usage over time, but rather a chronic inflammatory disease. Because of the disease, your body’s own immune system begins attacking regular body tissues, including joint lining. At present, the condition itself cannot be cured. So instead, treatment is centered on relieving symptoms.
Gout – Typically affecting the joint located at the base of the big toe, gout is a form of arthritis that develops on account of excessive uric acid buildup and crystallization. Uric acid is a normal byproduct of digestion, and it typically filtered out through the kidneys and expelled during urination. With gout, either the uric acid is either produced in an excessive quantity or not disposed. When excess gout settles into joints, it form crystals. Urate crystals have sharp edges, which can press into soft tissues and cause the severe pain associated with gout.
Post-traumatic arthritis – In some cases, an early onset of osteoarthritis can be attributed to damage sustained during a traumatic event. This can be the case when you break the end of a bone (the part that forms part of a joint). The actual post-traumatic arthritis might begin to develop months after the injury, although this might take several years as well.
What are Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Arthritis?
It is certainly our hope to help you find pain relief without needing to use surgical intervention. Whether or not we are able to do so will depend on various factors, including severity of symptoms and your lifestyle goals.
Medication, orthotic devices, and physical therapy are all possible nonsurgical treatment options for arthritis. Anti-inflammatory medications are particularly beneficial in relieving pain from swollen joints. Orthotics may be prescribed to adjust abnormal foot biomechanics and take pressure off affected joints.
Exercise is an especially great form of arthritis treatment. Now, the major symptoms of arthritis are joint stiffness and pain, so we certainly understand how affected individuals might think additional movement will only cause more pain and difficultly. There are, however, definite benefits of incorporating exercise as part of your arthritis treatment, such as increased flexibility, stronger muscles, lower bodyweight, improved flexibility, and even greater aerobic conditioning.
How is Surgery Used to Treat Arthritis?
When conservative treatment is insufficient, it’s time to evaluate surgical intervention options.
Types of arthritis surgery we may recommend include:
Arthrodesis (fusion). Arthrodesis is a procedure wherein we fuse the bones of the joint completely together, thereby making one continuous bone out of two or more bones. The goal of this particular procedure is to reduce pain by eliminating any possible motion in the arthritic joint.
Arthroscopic debridement. This surgery is often helpful in early stages of arthritis. Debridement (cleansing) is a procedure we use to remove loose cartilage, inflamed synovial tissue, and bone spurs from around the arthritic joint.
Total ankle replacement (arthroplasty). In a total ankle replacement, we remove the damaged bone and cartilage, and then position new plastic or metal joint surfaces to restore the function of the affected joint.
We will generally exhaust conservative treatment options before getting to the point of recommending surgery. Once our team has determined that surgery is the best choice, we will discuss this together with you. This will give you the opportunity to ask questions and find out more about your procedure.
Arthritis Treatment at Podiatry Associates
No matter if nonsurgical or surgical arthritis treatment is right for your case, you can trust our team at Podiatry Associates to work hard to provide the care you need. For more information on arthritis in a foot or ankle—or to request an appointment—call (303) 805-5156.