Topics discussed on this page:
At the end of this web page, we'll also discuss several basic ideas in how arthritis may be controlled through conservative (non-surgical) and surgical means.
What is Arthritis?
The word 'Arthritis' is not really a specific diagnosis, as the term refers to more than 100 different diseases of the joints and muscles affecting approximately 50 million people in Canada and the United States.
Arthritis can cause stiffness, pain, swelling, and limited movement. It can affect anyone at any age, from old to young. (There are approximately 300,000 children with arthritis in Canada and the United States.)
Symptoms of arthritis are one of the most commonly-seen conditions seen in a podiatric practice.
What kinds of Arthritis are there?
With over 100 different kinds of arthritis, there are too many to review here, but we'll touch on the most common kinds.
Osteoarthritis (OA) or Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) is the most common for of arthritis is osteoarthritis, affecting approximately 25 million people in the U.S. and Canada. OA is a wear and tear kind of arthritis, most frequently seen as you get older. In fact, more than 90% of individuals over 65 show some signs of this condition on X-ray. Any joint can be affected, though it's most common in the spine, hips, knees, hands and feet. Most bunions and hammertoes are associated with this kind of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is another common form of arthritis, affecting about 2.5 million people in the U.S. and Canada. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body's own immune system is attacking itself, resulting in this disease. Thus, it is believed that an infection of some sort triggers this condition.
As an autoimmune disease, RA can affect any joint in the body, but certain joints are affected more frequently than others. In the foot, the joints at the ball of the foot where the toes attach (the metatarsophalangeal joints) are frequently affected. For more information on this, visit our page on metatarsalgia. The same joints in the hand (metacarpophalangeal joints) are also affected. Both sets of joints can frequently become misaligned from this condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis can start at any age, but it's most frequently begins between the ages of 20 and 45.
Even kids can get a form of this condition called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), or Still's Disease. This condition affects a quarter million children in the U.S. and Canada, with females outnumbering males by a ratio of 4:1. The average age symptoms first appear is between 2 and 5.
frequently affecting the joints of the neck, elbows, knees, and ankles,
JRA can be felt around the body. JRA can be accompanied by high
fever and a specific type of rash. There may also be swollen glands
and involvement of other organs as well.
As with Rheumatoid arthritis discussed above, SLE is a disease where the body's own antibodies attack different areas, sometimes including the joints (95%). The effects of lupus range from very mild (skin rashes) to severe (kidney failure, lung disease, and blood vessel inflammation, all of which can threaten one's life).
A major group of inflammatory diseases causing arthritis are collectively known as the Spondyloarthropathies (also known as 'spondylarthritis', 'seronegative arthritis', and 'seronegative spondyloarthropathies')
Each member of this group is quite different, but each can cause arthritis, and each is frequently seen by podiatrists.
Gout is another major form of arthritis, with 2.5 million sufferers in Canada and the U.S.. Gout is frequently seen by podiatrists, as it primarily affects the tissues of the foot. We have covered this in more detail on a separate web page. If you're interested in specific information on Gout, click on the word Gout. If you're interested in the heel pain or bunion pain frequently seen with gout, visit those links.
Infectious Arthritis occurs from either a bacterial or viral infection that spreads to the affected joint from the blood. While most commonly seen in children, the frail and IV drug users, anyone can get infectious arthritis.
condition, the joint quickly becomes painful and swollen. Fever is common,
and there may be fever or chills. If infectious arthritis is
suspected, you should seek immediate medical attention, as this is an urgent
condition that can devastate joints and bone, and continue to spread. Visit
our pages on
in general or
How are these conditions treated?
There is no cure yet for arthritis. But there are many treatments. First, there are numerous over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory and steroids medications.
Physical medicine (physiotherapy) and occupational therapy can be used to provide relief at times and increase function, and specialized clinics dealing specifically with chronic pain can help a patient overcome chronic pain associated with arthritis.
Others find relief with massage, acupuncture, and applications of ice and heat.
In addition to the above treatments, podiatrists can offer custom-made, moulded shoes and specialized accommodative orthoses to help in controlling the discomfort of arthritis in the feet. These measures are completely non-invasive.
We can also offer advanced surgical intervention for arthritis may involve removing abnormal portions of bone around a joint, drilling the cartilage to promote new growth, removing part or all of a joint, decompressing and/or realigning a joint, limiting or increasing range of motion, or fusing a joint. We can even insert artificial joints.