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Don’t let arthritis of the foot & ankle slow you down

Did you know that almost one-fourth of the bones in your body are in your feet and ankles? In fact, there are 26 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles in each foot. Connecting your foot to your leg is the ankle joint. It has three bones – the fibula, tibia and talus. Our feet and ankles provide support and balance every time we take a step. But for a lot of people, it’s hard to put their best foot forward because of arthritis.

Arthritis is a term doctors use when referring to joint pain. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, with osteoarthritis – caused by degeneration of the joints over time – being the most common. When it comes to feet and ankles, arthritis pain is often caused by an old injury or rheumatoid arthritis. For most people, it’s a minor annoyance; but for others, the pain can become so great they have trouble walking or doing activities they enjoy. That’s when it’s time to see a doctor.

“Options to treat arthritis of the foot and ankle can include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, orthotic inserts, selective injections, bracing, or surgery,” says Chad Willis, M.D., a UK HealthCare orthopaedic surgeon with Med Center Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine who specializes in treating feet and ankles. “If orthotics are called for, it’s best to work with your doctor to get them custom-fitted for your unique needs. I would not want anyone to waste money on something that’s not going to work for them.”

What causes arthritis of the foot and ankle?

Arthritis is painful inflammation and swelling around the joints. There are several types of arthritis that can affect your feet and ankles, and each has a different cause:

  • Osteoarthritis – the most common type, caused by “wear-and-tear” over time
  • Post-traumatic arthritis – occurs after an injury, usually a dislocation or fracture
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – a serious, autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack the joints
  • Gout – caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body and usually affecting the big toe
  • Psoriatic arthritis – an autoimmune disease that affects people who suffer from psoriasis

How can I avoid arthritis?

There are some things you can do to modify your lifestyle and reduce the risk of arthritis in your feet or other parts of your body:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and diet – those extra pounds put extra stress on your body, especially your feet
  • Treat infections right away – Some bacterial and viral infections can affect your joints. If your joints are swollen, red and warm, see your doctor as soon as possible
  • Quit smoking – smoking increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis

What should I do if I have arthritis?

If you think you have arthritis in your feet and ankles, talk to your doctor. “I enjoy talking to patients and working with them to develop a treatment plan,” says Dr. Willis. “Because the treatment is usually elective, we have the freedom to try different approaches to find what works for the patient to accomplish their goals.”

While arthritis is not curable, there are many options available to help reduce the pain and keep you moving. For more information, visit MedCenterHealth.org/ortho. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Willis, call Med Center Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at 270-780-2750.