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What is Foot Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Arthritis is inflammation in the joint resulting from the degeneration of cartilage causing joint pain, swelling, and stiffness resulting in restricted movements. Arthritis of the foot and ankle joint can occur due to fractures, dislocation, inflammatory disease, or congenital deformity. The foot joints most commonly affected by arthritis are:

  • The joint between the shinbone (tibia) and ankle bone (talus)
  • The three joints of the foot that include the heel bone, the inner mid-foot bone, and the outer mid-foot bone
  • The joint of the great toe and foot bone

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system (the body’s way of fighting infection) attacks its own healthy joints, tissues, and organs. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints. Rheumatoid arthritis affects mostly the joints of the hands and feet and tends to be symmetrical. This means the disease affects the same joints on both sides of the body (ex. both feet) at the same time and with the same symptoms.

Causes of Foot Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is often caused when the genes responsible for the disease are triggered by infection or any environmental factors. With this trigger, the body’s defense mechanism produces antibodies against the joint, which may lead to rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of Foot Rheumatoid Arthritis

Symptoms of foot rheumatoid arthritis include pain and stiffness in the ligaments and joints throughout the foot or in the toe joints, swelling, persistent soreness throughout the foot (especially while walking, running or prolonged standing) and unusual warmth in one or more areas of the foot.

Diagnosis of Foot Rheumatoid Arthritis

The diagnosis of foot rheumatoid arthritis is made with a medical history, physical examination and X-rays of the affected joint. A bone scan, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are also performed to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment Options for Foot Rheumatoid Arthritis

Non-surgical treatment options for foot rheumatoid arthritis include rest, ice application, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol - these all assist in controlling pain and swelling), medications (anti-inflammatories), injections (steroids), orthotics, or braces to support the joints.

Surgery may be required if your symptoms do not improve with conservative treatments. Surgery may involve joint replacement, removal of damaged cartilage, fusing two bones together or removing inflamed joint tissue and excess debris.

  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • American Association for Hand Surgery
  • American Academy Of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • The American Board of Pediatrics
  • North American Spine Society
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