There are 26 main bones and 2 special small bones underneath the great toe called sesamoid bones. As a result, there are more than 30 joints within the foot. Given this fact and the amount of force the feet undergo during everyday life it is not surprising that arthritis within the foot is not uncommon.
Osteoarthritis, also known “wear and tear” or degenerative arthritis, is the more common type generally occurring after middle age. As the arthritis develops, the smooth, gliding surface covering the ends of bones (cartilage) becomes worn and frayed resulting in inflammation, swelling, and pain in and around the joint. Generally osteoarthritis progresses slowly and the pain and stiffness associated with it worsens over time. Foot posture or shape, activity levels and type, muscle function and body weight are some factors that may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.
Unlike osteoarthritis which generally tends to affect joints under the greatest stress with localised symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis affects a much larger number of joints in the foot and ankle that are not necessarily under great stress. This is because rheumatoid arthritis is classified as a systemic autoimmune disease where the patient’s own immune system attacks and destroys cartilage.
Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the foot or ankle. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, severe sprain, or ligament injury.
Treatment by your podiatrist depends on the type of arthritis but may include both single and/or a combination of modalities.