I bounced up a patient in the supermarket and her first refrain was, how can I get help with my arthritis? So many patients I see moan about this. It isn’t something that will mysteriously disappear, so you have to try to manage your condition. Arthritis is often associated with aging, and while you are more likely to develop arthritis as you get older, it can occur at any age, usually developing between the ages of 20 and 50.
There are also steps you can take to help prevent your chances of developing the condition later in life. Knees and feet are particularly prone to arthritis, and The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists is urging people to be vigilant about pain in these areas, to help aid detection, and improve quality of life and treatment.
Arthritis of any form can cause great pain for the sufferer, but the good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent it, and ways to ease the symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight, keeping active through low impact sports such as swimming and cycling, can help to prevent arthritis in later life. The key to treatment though, is early detection.
What is it?
Arthritis is a joint disorder featuring inflammation. A joint is an area of the body where two different bones meet. A joint functions to move the body parts connected by its bones. Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints. There are numerous forms of arthritis but Osteoarthritis (OA), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and gout are the most common ones. OA is the most common, and is caused by trauma and stress to the cartilage around the joints, which can be as a result of general wear and tear, or an injury. OA is very prevalent in foot joints. RA is one of the more severe types of arthritis, although it is much less widespread. It’s twice are prevalent in women than men, and occurs when the body’s immune system turns on itself, causing inflammation in the joint lining.
The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. Causes include injury (leading to osteoarthritis); metabolic abnormalities (such as gout and pseudogout); hereditary factors; the direct and indirect effect of infections (bacterial and viral); and a misdirected immune system with autoimmunity (such as in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus).
Arthritis is classified as one of the rheumatic diseases. These are conditions that are different individual illnesses, with differing features, treatments, complications, and prognoses. They are similar in that they have a tendency to affect the joints, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons, and many have the potential to affect other internal body areas.
Joint pain can be caused by injury affecting any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons surrounding the joint. Injury can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, and bones within the joint. Pain is also a feature of joint inflammation (arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and and osteoarthritis) and infection. In extremely rare cases it can be a cause of cancer of the joint.
Symptoms and signs associated with joint pain can include:
- joint redness
- joint swelling
- joint tenderness
- joint warmth
- locking of the joint
- loss of range of motion of the joint
If someone is experiencing problems with their feet, then often a podiatrist is their first point of call, and can help identify if it’s arthritis that is causing the problem. Consequently the patient may be referred depending on the severity of the disease. But living with the pain is not inevitable; something can always be done, to help control the disease, thereby helping your quality of life.
Treatment is very dependent on the precise type of arthritis present. An accurate diagnosis increases the chances for successful treatment. Treatments available include physical therapy, home remedies, splinting, cold-pack application, heat treatments, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medications, immune-altering medications, biologic medications, footwear, insoles, and surgical operations.
Talk to your doctor or podiatrist about what can be done. If you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, regular checks are important, at least annually for feet. People with RA are likely to need stronger medication and should be seen by a rheumatologist.
As medical treatment advances, more help than ever is available to aid ongoing foot problems. There is now good evidence for the use of insoles and footwear to help people with RA, particularly in the early years, soon after diagnosis. Your podiatrist can help by aligning your joints to ease pain, and prescribing insoles and footwear to limit joint damage. If the arthritis is severe, surgery may help.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!