If you get the sniffles, you may need to sleuth around to figure out what is causing them. Maybe you are coming down with a cold or the flu, or your allergies are acting up, or you are sensitive to light. Of course, you could have just finished a tear-jerker movie have and a pile of wadded-up tissues to prove it. The same problem exists with arthritis. It is associated with many different underlying conditions, so it can be hard to hone in on what’s actually happening in your case.
Playing Sherlock with Your Foot Pain
First, some basics. Arthritis is inflammation affecting the cartilage in your joints. There are many types:
Osteoarthritis is the most common and happens when the joints and linings of the bones wear down over time.
Rheumatoid arthritis is due to an autoimmune reaction where your body attacks its own cartilage.
Gout occurs when there is too much uric acid in your blood and it forms crystals in your joints.
Traumatic arthritis is due to a previous injury and can manifest even years after it has healed.
Psoriatic arthritis occurs in about 5 percent of people who have psoriasis and usually occurs in the ends of the fingers or toes.
Spying Out the Symptoms
Here are signs to look for in your feet and ankles. There will be pain—from a dull ache to sharp, stabbing sensations. The area will likely swell, and may be red or feel warm. The foot or ankle may be stiff, making it hard to bend your toes or move your foot around. It will feel tender when you touch it, and you might even develop a rash or other skin changes.
Because there are so many joints in your feet (33) and they have to bear your entire weight, symptoms often show up there. As podiatrists, we are often the first ones to diagnose the condition. It is important to discover the problem early, before the cartilage had deteriorated too badly, because it does not rebuild itself once it is gone.
Investigating Your Treatment Options
The goal of treatment is to control inflammation that damages your joints and keep them as mobile as possible while relieving your pain. This can be done in many ways. It is important for you to learn as much as you can about the disease and follow through on any physical therapy or exercise programs we design for you.
There are many medications available for different types of the disease, one being the old-fashioned aspirin to control pain and inflammation. It is important to work with us to find the best one for you, since what works for one person may be completely useless to the next.
We can also design custom orthotics that may control how your foot moves—lessening the friction or wear on certain joints. Prescription shoes may also help in this regard.
Scouting Out the Benefits of Surgery
It is not our first line of defense against this painful condition, but if nothing else is handling your symptoms, surgery may be an option. There are several types of procedures that may lessen your joint pain and allow you to function more normally again.
One is arthroscopic debridement, using fiberoptic tools through small incisions to clean up the joints and remove foreign and damaged tissue. With arthrodesis, the joint is fused with plates or screws so it stays stable without further damaging that joint. Finally, a badly damaged joint can be completely replaced with an artificial one, a procedure called arthroplasty.
We will prescribe medication to handle the pain after surgery. You will need to stay off your foot, elevate it, and follow any physical therapy we prescribe to regain full function, but in a few months you should be able to resume your activities.
If you are experiencing painful arthritic symptoms in your feet or ankles, don’t wait around for them to go away. Schedule an appointment at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center by calling (303) 423-2520, or use our webpage to set one up at our office in Wheat Ridge or Golden, CO. We look forward to helping you!
Photo credit: Witthaya Phonsawat via freedigitalphotos.net