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Arthritis in the Foot

Arthritis in the Foot

In the United States alone, more than forty million people suffer from arthritis. In fact, it is estimated that about sixty million people in the U.S. will have arthritis by the year 2020, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases. Those over fifty are the primary targets for arthritis. While there is no known cure for arthritis in the foot, medical advancements have made many treatment options possible to slow the progression and relieve symptoms of the disease. With proper treatment, like what we provide here at Space Coast Foot & Ankle Center in Melbourne, many of those with arthritis in the foot is now able to remain active, manage their pain, and lead fulfilling lives.

What is Arthritis of the Foot

Arthritis is a general term for joint inflammation. Any joint in the body can be affected by arthritis which can cause stiffness, swelling, redness, warmth, and pain. This is especially common in the small joints of the ankle and foot. There are several forms of arthritis, with many of them affecting the ankle and foot. Walking and performing certain activities can be difficult for those with this medical condition. When you walk, stand, and run, the ankle and foot provide support, balance, shock absorption, as well as many other functions necessary for motion. The ankle joint is made up of three bones that primarily enable up and down movement. The foot has twenty-eight bones, and thirty-three joints to allow for an extensive range of movement. Articular cartilage covers the end of the bones in many of these joints. During movement, this material is what helps the bones glide effortlessly. Synovium is a thin lining that surrounds these joints. The synovium creates a fluid that reduces friction and lubricates the cartilage. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that keeps the joints in place and connects the bones. To make the joints move, they are also supported and strengthened by muscles and tendons.

Major Types of Arthritis

While there are many types of arthritis that affect the ankle and foot, the major ones include osteoarthritis, posttraumatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.


Also referred to as degenerative or “wear-and-tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is a common problem experienced by those after they reach middle age. However, this medical condition can occur in younger people as well.
In osteoarthritis, cartilage located in the joints progressively wears down, becoming rough and frayed, and the area between the bones decreases. Bone rubbing on bone and the creation of painful osteophytes (bone spurs) are a result of this.
Risk factors other than age for osteoarthritis include a family history of the disease and obesity. This disease progresses slowly, causing stiffness and pain that worsens over time.

Posttraumatic Arthritis

Posttraumatic arthritis can occur after an injury to the ankle or foot. The most common injuries that lead to this condition are fractures and dislocations – particularly ones that damaged the surface of the joint. As with osteoarthritis, cartilage located between the joints wear away with posttraumatic arthritis. Take note, this condition does not occur immediately after the initial injury. In fact, it may take years after the injury for it to develop. An injured joint has a much greater chance to become arthritic than an uninjured joint, even when the injury was properly treated. Hormones may be secreted by the body following an injury. This secretion can actually stimulate the death of the cartilage cells.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another major form of arthritis in the foot is rheumatoid arthritis. It is a chronic disease that can affect many joints throughout the body. Oftentimes, rheumatoid arthritis starts in the ankle and foot. It is also important to note, this disease is symmetrical, which means in most cases the same joint on both sides of the patient’s body is affected. Unlike osteoarthritis and post-traumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. In cases of autoimmune diseases, the patient’s immune system attacks its own tissue. For those with rheumatoid arthritis, the synovium covering the joint is attacked by the immune cells causing it to swell. As time progresses, the synovium attacks and damages the ligaments and tendons, as well as the bone and cartilage, which can cause serious joint disability and deformity. While it is not an inherited disease and the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, it is believed that some people are more susceptible due to their genes. In many cases, there is a “trigger,” such as an environmental factor or an infection that activates the genes. The immune system begins to create substances that attack the joints when the body is exposed to this trigger.


The symptoms of arthritis in the foot can vary depending on the joint affected. In most cases, the joint affected by arthritis will be inflamed and painful. While the sudden onset of pain is possible, it generally develops progressively over time. Other symptoms may occur, as well, including:
• Tenderness
• Swelling, redness, and warmth
• Vigorous activity causes pain to flare up
• Pain with motion
• Pain and swelling increase after sitting or resting, or in the morning
• Walking difficulty due to the previously mentioned symptoms


There is numerous cause of arthritis. While heredity plays a major role, symptoms of this condition can develop due to many other factors as well. Some of these factors include:
• Viral and bacterial infections
• Prescription and illegal drugs
• Bowel disorders such as colitis and ileitis
• Traumatic injuries

Treatment and Prevention

As previously mentions, there is no cure for arthritis but there are many treatments available that can help relieve the disability is may cause as well as the pain. Treatments for arthritis in the foot include both non-surgical and surgical. 

Space Coast Foot & Ankle Center of Brevard County specializes in the treatment of arthritis in the foot and are available for consultation.You don’t have to suffer another day, if you are experiencing this problem, call our office today for an appointment.