Osteoarthritis of the Foot and Ankle

Arthritis is the term given to a group of over 100 diseases. The root of the word “arthritis” means joint inflammation, and arthritis involves the swelling in and around your joints, which often results in pain and stiffness.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is generally associated with aging. Your risk of developing osteoarthritis increases if you are overweight, have had a joint injury, are genetically predisposed, or if you have abnormal foot mechanics.

What causes osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative “wear and tear” disease caused by the deterioration of cartilage in the joint. As the cartilage becomes thinner due to repeated stress and use over time, the bones lose their protective covering and may eventually be running against each other, causing pain and inflammation.

The condition may also be caused by an injury, although it may only develop months or years after sustaining the injury. It can also develop if you have flat feet or high arches, which puts excessive strain on the joints.

What are the symptoms?

Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the joint where the ankle meets your shin bone as well as the joints involving your heel bone, your inner mid-foot bone, and your outer mid-foot bone. The condition is also common in the big toe joint.

Symptoms include:

  • Foot and ankle tenderness
  • Inability (or reduced ability) to walk comfortably
  • Joint stiffness or swelling

When should you see a doctor?

If you have ongoing pain in your feet or a combination of the symptoms discussed above, you should make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in ankle and foot conditions.

To get an accurate diagnosis, the doctor will take a medical history, as well as determining when the pain began, and factors that seem to aggravate the condition. They will also do a gait analysis and may request x-rays.

Your doctor will be able to offer a number on non-surgical interventions to minimize discomfort and slow the progression of the arthritis, options include:

  • Weight loss
  • Orthotics
  • Bracing
  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatories and other pain relief medication
  • Steroid injections

If surgical treatment is required, the three major surgical options include:

  • Arthroscopic surgery – this is most effective for early state arthritis where foreign tissues or bone spurs are removed from the affected joint.
  • Fusion surgery – also called arthrodesis, where the bones are fused using rods, screws, pins, or plates.
  • Joint replacement surgery – here the ankle joint is replaced with an artificial joint.

Make an appointment

Work-related injuries cost millions of dollars and account for thousands of hours of lost time every year in the US. At Northwest Surgical Specialists, we aim to be part of the solution, helping to limit workplace injuries and assist workers with returning to full health, and full productively quickly and affordably. To get in touch, please give us a call on 847-885-9525 or request an appointment through the website.