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What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a broad term for a number of conditions that destroy the workings of a normal joint. Literally arthritis means inflammation of the joint. Pain and swelling are the most common presenting symptoms. Patients may report stiffness also. There may or may not be a history of trauma (recent or remote).
Arthritis may occur in your back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders or hands, but it also occurs in your feet and ankles. Almost half of people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis of the foot and/or ankle that may not cause symptoms. There are many different types of arthritis.
The three most common forms of arthritis are: osteoarthritis (degenerative, “wear and tear”), post-traumatic, rheumatoid.
Treatment of Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle
Proper treatment of foot and ankle arthritis addresses both pain and joint deformity. Pain develops when the joint is injured. Injury to the joint may result from swelling caused by inflammatory arthritis or from the loss of joint surface (cartilage), often caused by trauma. If left untreated, the foot and ankle may eventually become deformed.
If your doctor suspects you have arthritis of the foot and ankle, he/she will ask you to have a complete medical history and physical examination. X-rays and laboratory tests often can confirm the type and extent of the arthritis. Other tests such as a bone scan, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to evaluate your condition.
Once your doctor confirms you have arthritis, he/she will recommend a treatment regimen which may include medications by mouth (anti-inflammatories), injections (steroids), physical therapy, weight loss, or orthotics such as pads in your shoes or custom-made braces. Surgery may be necessary. This may mean cleaning the arthritic joint, eliminating the painful motion of the joint (fusion), replacing the joint with an artificial joint or a combination of all these. After surgery, you will require a period of rehabilitation when your foot might have to be in a cast and you might have to wear special shoes or braces for a while.
You Are an Important Part of the Treatment
You are often told you must live with arthritis, but that does not mean that you have to stop living. You should take an active part in your treatment; seek treatment for arthritis as early as possible to help control pain and reduce damage to the joint; take medications as directed, exercise, control your weight, and participate in all aspects of your care.
Even with the best of treatment, arthritis of the foot and ankle may continue to cause you pain or changes in your activities. However, proper diagnosis and treatment will help to minimize these limitations and allow you to lead a more productive, active lifestyle.
(Adapted from AOFAS)