There are more than 30 joints in the ankle and feet.
There are more than 30 joints in the ankle and feet. Arthritis can affect one or multiple joints in the feet. Excess weight, hereditary tendencies, old injuries, and poor footwear are a few predisposing factors of arthritis. There are over a hundred different types of arthritis; the three most common types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. There are several new types of medications, physical therapy, and surgeries, which have improved treatment options for arthritis dramatically and can reduce symptoms and prevent complications.
The most common types of arthritis that present in the feet include:
- Osteoarthritis (OA): It occurs because of the wear and tear of the joints. In OA, the weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips, and ankles are more commonly affected. The most affected joint in the feet is the first metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP) that connects the big toe to the foot.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): It is a long-standing autoimmune disorder that typically affects the small joints (large joints may also be affected) and other body systems, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. An autoimmune disorder is a condition when the body’s immune system attacks its own body tissues. RA usually affects the same joints in both feet unlike OA, which typically affects one specific joint.
- Gout: A gout is a complex form of arthritis, which occurs due to the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joint. Gout most commonly affects the feet and typically, the big toe. It is characterized by severe pain, redness, warmth, swelling, and tenderness of the joint.
- Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis also affects the toes, causing sausage-like swelling of the toes due to the inflammation of tendons and ligaments attached to the joint.
What are the early signs of arthritis in the feet?
The earliest signs of arthritis are pain, swelling, and stiffness. The signs and symptoms of arthritis in the feet include:
- Stiffness: Arthritis causes vague joint stiffness and decreases the range of motion of the joint. Joint stiffness usually occurs in the morning after waking up and decreases through the day with activity.
- Pain: Pain of the affected joints is the earliest sign of any type of arthritis. The pain may be episodic, and the pain may increase after excessive activity. Pain in the early stages of arthritis may come and go. The pain may also worsen and be severe after waking up in the morning.
- Swelling: The joint may get inflamed and swollen because of stress and joint damage.
- Joint deformity: The cartilage in the joints may erode in patches, there is also weakening of the muscles and ligaments in the joint. These result in deformities of the fingers.
- Warmth: Inflammation of the joint leads to warmth and redness of the affected joints.
- Mucous cysts: These are bumpy fluid-filled sacs (cysts) that appear like small dents or ridges in the feet, commonly occurring at the end of the toes and under the toenails.
- Bone spurs: As joint damage worsens, extra bone may be formed in the joints, called bone spurs. They appear as knobby growths. Bone spurs affect joint function as well.
Medically Reviewed on 12/16/2020
NYU Langone Health. Types of Foot & Ankle Arthritis. https://nyulangone.org/conditions/foot-ankle-arthritis-in-adults/types
Sorrento D. Foot and Ankle Pain Due to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). https://www.arthritis-health.com/types/rheumatoid/foot-and-ankle-pain-due-rheumatoid-arthritis-ra
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