dr. thomas mcdonald foot and ankle specialist

Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Feet And Your Treatment Options

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an all too common condition in which a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body, leading to inflammation in different parts of your body. RA typically affects your joints, and this inflammation leads to difficult or painful joint movements. Oftentimes one of the first places for rheumatoid arthritis to develop is in your feet. In today’s blog, we explore how rheumatoid arthritis can develop in your feet and how Dr. McDonald and his team can help you overcome your issues so that walking becomes more comfortable.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes And Symptoms

The specific reason why rheumatoid arthritis develops is not well understood, but there are many theories as to why it may develop. Underlying genetic factors or chemical/environmental triggers may cause the body’s immune system to begin viewing healthy cells as foreign invaders, triggering the onset of RA.

When rheumatoid arthritis develops, the feet are a common location for inflammation and symptoms. In fact, roughly 90 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis eventually develop symptoms in the foot or ankle region. The condition tends to begin in the toes before progressing to the midfoot, hindfoot and ankle, but it doesn’t always develop in this pattern. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the foot or ankle include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Inhibited gait
  • Onset of bunions, hammertoes or claw toes
  • Development of flat foot

It’s worth noting that symptoms may not be isolated to your feet. Because RA causes your immune system to work overtime, you may also find that you are tired more often, you tire faster or you have a decreased appetite. Let your doctor know about any and all symptoms that you’re experiencing.

Treating RA Of The Foot And Ankle

If you suspect that you are dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, a different form of arthritis or simply want to better understand the symptoms you’re experiencing in your feet and ankles, set up an appointment with your primary care provider or a foot specialist like Dr. McDonald. They’ll begin by asking about your symptoms, performing a physical exam of your feet and confirming any suspicions with the help of diagnostic testing. X-rays or blood tests can look for joint damage or the presence of certain markers that indicate the presence of rheumatoid arthritis.

Treating RA in your feet and ankles will depend on your current symptoms and limitations, but the outlook is quite positive for patients who catch the condition in an early stage. For these patients, they may be able to manage symptoms and control RA flareups with the help of simple tweaks to their daily life. Diet improvements, losing weight, pursuing regular exercise and striving to normalize a healthy sleep schedule can all help to control and manage joint inflammation. Patients may also be prescribed certain medications to take inflammation control to another level. Changes to your footwear can ensure that your feet are comfortable and supported when you are moving, which can limit stress, strain and an inflammatory response in your feet.

For severe cases, a surgical procedure may be necessary to alleviate the joint damage that has set in and to limit painful joint movement. The two most common surgical treatments are an ankle fusion, which fuses the joint together to limit any bone on bone contact and joint movement, or a total ankle replacement procedure, which installs artificial joint hardware in place of the arthritic structures. Both of these procedures have a high rate of success but will come with an extended recovery timeline, and you may experience some loss in flexibility and ankle motion as a result of the procedure, but this loss is typically preferred to the pain and discomfort that was present prior to surgery.

If you are plagued by the uncomfortable symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, let Dr. McDonald and his team find a solution that’s right for you. For more information, or for help with a different problem in your feet and ankles, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today at (860) 244-8889.

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