Arthritis is a medical condition which affects the body’s joints and is a major cause of debilitating pain and disability for many people. In fact, up to 50 million American adults reported being told by a physician that they have some type of arthritis.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis. But, the most common form is osteoarthritis, which develops as we age. In this condition, the thin cartilage covering on the ends of the bones becomes worn and frayed, resulting in inflammation, swelling and pain. It affects nearly 27 million Americans, most of whom are 45 and older.
Arthritis can also occur following injury to a joint. This is known as traumatic arthritis. It may develop months or years after a severe sprain, torn ligament or broken bone.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease in which the immune system turns against itself. Instead of protecting the joints, the body produces substances that attack and inflame the joints. 1.3 million adult Americans have been diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis.1 It most commonly occurs in the hands and feet.
What Causes Foot Arthritis?
Many surgeons feel that arthritis in the foot begins with an injury to the soft cartilage lining the joints, such as from stubbing the big toe. A seemingly small incident like this can trigger a wear process in the joint lasting years before symptoms become obvious.
Foot arthritis may also be associated with overuse. People who perform repetitive activities or jobs that increase stress on the big toe, such as stooping or
squatting, may be at a higher risk of developing arthritis. Other cases of foot arthritis
seem to occur without any type of serious injury. These cases are believed to run in the family, and result from inheriting a foot type that is prone to developing arthritis. Minor differences in the foot’s structure may make some individuals more likely to develop arthritis than others. These small imperfections in the foot’s anatomy may increase stress on the joint while walking. Over time, this added stress may result in arthritis of the joint. Your foot and ankle surgeon can determine the cause of your arthritis and recommend the best treatment for you.
Treatment of Foot Arthritis
If your symptoms are mild, anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to reduce pain and swelling. Special shoes may also be worn to reduce the amount of stress on the toe during walking. For painful or more severe arthritis, your doctor may recommend outpatient surgery.
In some cases, pain is reduced or eliminated only through surgery. Arthritis in the foot may be treated through several types of procedures.
Common types of surgery for arthritis include:
• Chilectomy – Removal of bone spurs at the top of the joint. This allows the toe to bend better and reduce the amount of pain while walking.
• Arthroplasty – Replacement of the joint with an artificial implant . This procedure removes one or both of the joint surfaces and is replaced with metal, plastic, or silicone.
• Arthrodesis – Fusion of the big toe joint to remove the damaged surfaces of the joint, thereby eliminating motion and minimizing pain. The two bones of the joint grow together, becoming a single bone.
• Arthrodiastasis – The use of an external fixator to maintain joint motion, correct joint alignment, andpreserve toe length.