Stiff or sore joints from sitting in a strange position too long are an easy fix, but what happens when the cause is coming from within; from your own body? This is the reality many with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) face. It is a condition that can affect joints throughout the body, but more than 90 percent of people who have it will experience symptoms in their feet and ankles as the disease progresses. For around 20 percent of sufferers, the feet and ankles are where the disease will first begin to be noticed.
While some forms of arthritis are caused by general “wear and tear” on the joints, RA is classified as an autoimmune disease.
A protective lining called synovium covers joints, providing much needed lubrication for ease of movement. When the body’s own immune system turns on itself, it can cause the synovium to become overactive, swell, and become inflamed. What once protected the joint is now slowly destroying it. Tissues surrounding the joint, such as ligaments, can also be affected by this condition and deteriorate.
An exact cause of RA is not currently known. One’s genetic background is considered a possible reason, as people seem more likely to develop the disease if other family members have had it. Many doctors believe genetics itself is not enough, however, and that some form of chemical or environmental trigger sets the disease in motion in those who have inherited it.
Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. This discomfort is often present in several joints and, unlike other forms of arthritis, tends to be present in both feet. An affected joint might be warm to the touch.
Depending on the location of the joint damage, other additional symptoms may arise. Ankles affected by RA might begin to have difficulty climbing ramps and stairs. When the heel region is affected, it can become harder to walk on uneven ground as stability is affected. Foot alignment in general can also be impaired, creating flatfoot, a bump on the arch, bunions, and claw toes. These conditions make wearing shoes more troublesome and result in corns and calluses.
There is no cure for RA, but there are many forms of treatment to help someone manage symptoms and maintain his or her quality of life. Conservative forms of treatment may include periods of rest, ice therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. The use of custom-made orthotics or braces can provide needed support and correction if alignment and stability have become affected.
In certain cases, surgical options may need to be considered to provide significant pain relief or stability. This may involve fusing a joint together or joint replacement.
If you suspect rheumatoid or any other form of arthritis in your feet or ankles, earlier diagnosis and treatment can go a long way toward preserving comfort and function. Call the office of Dr. Kevin Powers to schedule an appointment with us. We will be happy to listen to your concerns and get to the sources of your stiffness and pain. You can reach our Bloomington office by calling (812) 333-4422.