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Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle 

June 26, 2015

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. It can cause pain and stiffness in any joint in the body, and is common in the small joints of the foot and ankle. There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, many of which affect the foot and ankle. All types can make it difficult to walk and perform activities you enjoy. Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are many treatment options available to slow the progress of the disease and relieve symptoms. With proper treatment, many people with arthritis are able to manage their pain, remain active, and lead fulfilling lives.

During standing, walking, and running, the foot and ankle provide support, shock absorption, balance, and several other functions that are essential for motion. Three bones make up the ankle joint, primarily enabling up and down movement. There are 28 bones in the foot, and more than 30 joints that allow for a wide range of movement. In many of these joints the ends of the bones are covered with articular cartilage-a slippery substance that helps the bones glide smoothly over each other during movement. Joints are surrounded by a thin lining called the synovium. The synovium produces a fluid that lubricates the cartilage and reduces friction. Tough bands of tissue, called ligaments, connect the bones and keep the joints in place. Muscles and tendons also support the joints and provide the strength to make them move.


The symptoms of arthritis vary depending on which joint is affected. In many cases, an arthritic joint will be painful and inflamed. Generally, the pain develops gradually over time, although sudden onset is also possible. There can be other symptoms, as well, including: Pain with motion, Pain that flares up with vigorous activity, Tenderness when pressure is applied to the joint, Joint swelling, warmth, and redness, Increased pain and swelling in the morning, or after sitting or resting, Difficulty in walking due to any of the above symptoms.


Your doctor will discuss your overall health and medical history and ask about any medications you may be taking. He will examine your foot and ankle for tenderness and swelling and ask questions to understand more about symptoms.


In most cases, surgery relieves the pain of arthritis and makes it easier to perform daily activities. Full recovery can take from 4 to 9 months, depending on the severity of your condition before surgery and the complexity of your procedure. Foot and ankle surgery can be painful. While you should expect to feel some discomfort, advancement in pain control now make it easier for your doctor to manage and relieve pain. Immediately after surgery, you will be given medication for pain relief. If needed, your doctor will provide you with a pain reliever that you can take for a short time while you are home. Your doctor will most likely apply a cast after surgery to limit movement in your foot and ankle and to prevent nonunion. To reduce swelling, it is important to keep your foot elevated above the level of your heart for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.  Later in your recovery, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength in your foot and ankle and to restore range of motion.

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