Arthritis and the Feet
Arthritis is a frequent component of complex disease processes that may involve more than 100 identifiable disorders. It is characterized by inflammation of the cartilage and lining of the body’s joints. If the feet seem more susceptible to arthritis than other parts of the body, it is because each foot has 33 joints which can be afflicted, and there is no way to avoid the pain of the tremendous weight-bearing load on the feet.
Arthritis may be a disabling and occasionally crippling disease; it afflicts almost 40 million Americans. In some forms, it appears to have hereditary tendencies. While the prevalence of arthritis increases with age, all people from infancy to middle age are potential victims. People over 50 are the primary targets.
Arthritic feet can result in loss of mobility and independence. But that may be avoided with early diagnosis and proper medical care.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis, in general terms, is inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints, generally accompanied by an increase in the fluid in the joints. Arthritis has multiple causes; just as a sore throat may have its origin in a variety of diseases, so joint inflammation and arthritis are associated with many different illnesses.
Besides heredity, arthritic symptoms may have their source in a number of phenomena:
They can be traumatic, having their origins in injuries, notably in athletes and industrial workers, especially if the injuries have been ignored (which injuries of the feet tend to be).
Bacterial and viral infections can strike the joints. The same organisms that are present in pneumonia, gonorrhea, staph infections, and Lyme disease cause the inflammations.
Arthritis can develop in conjunction with bowel disorders such as colitis and ileitis, frequently in the joints of the ankles and toes. Such inflammatory bowel diseases seem distant from arthritis, but their control can relieve arthritic pain.
Drugs, both prescription drugs and illegal street drugs, can induce arthritis.
Arthritis can be part of a congenital autoimmune disease syndrome, of undetermined origin. Recent research has suggested, for instance, that a defective gene may play a role in osteoarthritis.
Because arthritis can affect the structure and function of the feet it is important to see a doctor of podiatric medicine if any of the following symptoms occur in the feet:
Swelling in one or more joints
Recurring pain or tenderness in any joint
Redness or heat in a joint
Limitation in motion of a joint
Early morning stiffness
Skin changes, including rashes and growths