Causes, Symptoms and Treatment for Arthritis in Feet

Arthritis is known to cause inflammation in the joints. It causes stiffness and pain in a joint and it is commonly seen in small joints of the ankle and foot.

More than a hundred types of arthritis, a lot of which can affect the ankles and foot. All these types make walking and performing daily activities very difficult.

Arthritis has no cure, but can be managed. There are different treatments to choose from in order to slow down the progression of arthritis and to relieve its symptoms. With proper medical management, many people experiencing arthritis can control their pain, stay active, and spend their lives in fulfillment.



Arthritis has no causative agent; the causes vary depending on the type of arthritis. Arthritis may also be influenced by:

  • Abnormal metabolism that can lead to pseudogout and gout.
  • Injury that progresses to arthritis
  • Infections like Lyme disease
  • Genetics such as osteoarthritis
  • Weak immune system response like in systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.


The symptoms of people with arthritis vary. It differs on which joint gets affected. Arthritic joints are inflamed and very painful in a lot of cases. The pain gradually develops as time passes, but there is a possibility of a sudden onset of pain in arthritis. Other symptoms related to arthritis are the following:

  • Pain when moving
  • A sudden burst of pain may occur while doing vigorous activity
  • Swelling , redness, and warmth of joint
  • Tenderness is noted in the joint when applying pressure
  • Increased swelling and pain upon waking up, resting or after sitting
  • Hard time walking because of the symptoms listed above


Arthritis has no cure but a number of treatments may aid in relieving disability and pain it causes.

Medical Management

The first few treatments for arthritis are normally nonsurgical. Your physician may recommend you different treatment options.

Change in Lifestyle

A change in the activities of daily living aids in relieving the pain caused by arthritis and helps to slow down its progress. Lifestyle changes that need modification are:

  • Lose some weight so the stress on your joints will reduce, thus results in increased functionality and less pain.
  • Limit activities that may aggravate arthritis.
  • Try switching activities that have high impacts such as tennis or jogging to fewer impact ones like cycling or swimming to lessen ankle and foot stress.


  • NSAIDS or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen help lessen swelling and give relief from pain.
  • Cortisone, which is an effective agent to treat inflammation, may be injected into the affected arthritic joint. The cortisone injection can provide immediate relief from pain and reduces the inflammation, but this will only be temporary.


Specific types of exercise may help flexibility and increase ROM (range of motion). It can also aid in strengthening the muscles located in the ankle and foot. Your trusted physical therapist or doctor can help in developing some customized exercise programs that meet personal lifestyle and needs.

Even if physical therapy helps greatly to relieve stress on the affected joints, there are some instances that the pain in arthritic joints intensifies. This happens when the movement makes rising friction between your arthritic joints. If joint pain becomes aggravated because of physiotherapy, the doctor will immediately stop the treatment.

Assistive Devices

  • Wearing braces and canes like AFO or ankle foot orthosis helps in improving mobility.
  • Another one is wearing of orthotic inserts for the shoes or shoes that are custom made that have rocker bottoms and stiff soles to minimize the pressure felt on your feet and also decreases the pain.
  • When the deformity is noted, shoe inserts can help to tilt your ankle’s foot straight back, thus creating lesser pain in your joint.

Surgical Management

Doctors usually recommend surgery when the pain causes impairment and is not relieved by medical management. The surgery type will be dependent on the location and type of arthritis as well as the disease’s impact on the joints. In some instances, your physician recommends two or more surgeries.


Arthrodesis completely merges the bones located in the joint, to make two bones or more look continuous. The procedure’s goal is to lessen pain through eliminating arthritic joint motion. This is also called fusion by many.

Normally, arthrodesis procedure is successful but at times can cause complications. Several cases have seen nonunion or no fusion of the joint, which can cause the breakage of the hardware.

This usually happens if weight is put on the foot before the completion of the fusion of your bones. The nonunion causes swelling and pain, while the hardware that’s broken doesn’t.

Arthroscopic Debridement

This type of surgery is helpful during early onset of arthritis. Cleansing or debridement is a type of procedure where the swollen synovial tissue, bone spurs around your joint, and loose cartilage is removed.

Arthroscopic surgery is highly efficient when pain related to the contact between your arthritis and bone spur does not necessarily cause some significant narrowing yet of joint space that is between bones. Arthroscopy makes arthritic joint to rapidly deteriorate. The removal of bone spur can increase joint motion, thus causing the faster wear of the cartilage.

Arthroplasty or Total Replacement of the Ankle

Your physician may remove damaged bone and cartilage, then proceeds on positioning plastic or metal joint surfaces in order to restore joint functions.

This procedure is not commonly done like total knee or total hip replacement, but implant design advancements have made this medical procedure a feasible option for a lot of people.

Patients that are recommended to undergo ankle replacement are:

  • Ankle pain interfering with activities of daily living.
  • Destroyed surfaces of the ankle joint because of arthritis.
  • Arthritis of the ankle that is advanced in nature.

This procedure may help alleviate arthritic pain and provides patients a greater degree of mobility as well as movement compared to the fusion or arthrodesis. Also, there is less stress transferred to adjacent joints as the used to be arthritic joint can now move freely. It reduces risks of the development of arthritis in the adjacent joint.

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