ARTHRITIS

What is arthritis of the foot?
Arthritis is due to inflammation of the joints. There are 33 joints in the foot and any joint can be subjected to arthritis. However, arthritis is most commonly seen in the big toe joint. Arthritis may cause the big toe to lose movement, become stiff and painful. Typically, the cartilage between the joints erodes or wears out. Increase in motion within the joints can lead to a gradual increase in the amount of erosion, resulting in more joint damage. It becomes difficult to bend the toe as the problem worsens and this stiffness around the joint may make it difficult to participate in certain activities. Swelling surrounding the joint may occur, as well as, pain while at rest, limping or inability to wear certain shoes. The sooner the condition is treated, the better chance there is to remain comfortable and active for many years. However, the longer the condition is present, the greater chance there is for continued damage within the joint and possible bone spur formation.

What causes arthritis of the big toe joint?
There are different forms of arthritis - osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gouty arthritis, septic arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis. The foot structure and foot function is known as biomechanics. A biomechanical imbalance may be one cause. In other cases, there may have been a traumatic incident such as a jammed toe that caused localized joint inflammation or an auto-immune condition.

People with flat feet or low arches  and people with cavus feet or high arches are more susceptible to developing a biomechanical deformity. Increased activities and abnormal motion within the joint may lead to arthritic changes. Heredity can also play a part in the development of arthritis.

What is the treatment?
Early diagnosis of the condition, can lead to nonsurgical treatment, which may include changing shoes, using orthotics, taking oral anti-inflammatory medication or using a special shoe to align the foot and allow proper motion. Many times you may have to stop doing certain activities to prevent further joint damage in order to avoid surgery.
If the condition is severe, the only treatment to eliminate the pain and deformity may be surgery. If the joint is undamaged but there are bone spurs, the procedure may involve removing the spurs, cleaning up and remodeling the joint to increase motion. When there is severe damage within the joint, the joint may not be able to be preserved and a joint implant can allow continued activity and range of motion. In advanced cases, the joint may need to be fused. Recovery periods vary depending on the type of procedure performed. You can discuss these options with your doctor.

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