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Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle

The Condition

Osteoarthritis of the foot and ankle affects millions of Americans on a daily basis. Our lifestyles have become so overwhelmed with multitasking that there is very little rest that occurs anymore. With increased activity comes the overuse and overworking of the joints of the foot and ankle. Our increased activity coupled with the increased amount of weight that our feet and ankles must bear can cause significant cartilage degradation. As the cartilage wears down, the smooth gliding nature of joints becomes more and more troublesome and painful. Eventually the cartilage will completely wear down causing a bone on bone situation within the joint. When this occurs, even the slightest motion of a joint becomes very painful.

The Treatment

Treating arthritis of the foot and ankle can be very frustrating for patients at times. Often there is a trial and error process to determine which treatments will provide the most significant relief. Your foot and ankle specialist will consider utilizing oral or injectable anti-inflammatory medications, custom-made orthotics, and sometimes even surgical care to replace or fuse the affected joint.

Frequently Asked Questions

Generally speaking it is the same type of arthritis. Often you will hear people describe this as “wear and tear” arthritis. This simply means that continual use and repetitive motions of the affected joint has caused degradation of the joint surface and cartilage.
A custom-made shoe insert can be shaped to help promote smoother joint motion and even offload the affected joint as needed.
Injecting steroids with a combination of local anesthetics into the affected joint can reduce inflammation and pain. While this is not a permanent solution to the pain associated with osteoarthritis, it can provide long-term relief. Typically, in the foot and ankle, it is preferred not to perform any more than three to four injections of steroids into a single joint in less than a year’s time.
The joints most often affected are the big toe joint, tarsometatarsal joint, and subtalar joint. However, the ankle is also commonly affected. With advances in surgical technique and implants, joint replacement in the foot and ankle has become very successful at restoring normal pain-free motion.