Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition where the cartilage between bones in a joint degenerates and wears down. It is considered a “wear and tear” disease because the cartilage in the joint wears down with repeated stress and use over time. As the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects millions of Americans. Some people refer to osteoarthritis simply as arthritis, even though there are many different types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis appears at various joints throughout the body, including the hands, feet, spine, hips, and knees. In the foot, the disease most frequently occurs in the big toe, although it is also often found in the midfoot and ankle. Patients with osteoarthritis in the foot or ankle experience, in varying degrees, pain and stiffness in the joint, swelling in or near the joint, and difficulty walking or bending the joint.
Osteoarthritis is considered a “wear and tear” disease because the cartilage in the joint wears down with repeated stress and use over time. An injury may also lead to osteoarthritis, although it may take months or years after the injury for the condition to develop. Sometimes osteoarthritis develops due to abnormal foot mechanics such as flat feet or high arches. A flat foot causes less stability in the ligaments (bands of tissue that connect bones), resulting in excessive strain on the joints, which can cause arthritis. A high arch is rigid and lacks mobility, leading to a jamming of joints that creates an increased risk of arthritis.
In diagnosing osteoarthritis, a foot and ankle surgeon will examine the foot thoroughly, looking for swelling in the joint, limited mobility, and pain with movement. In some cases, deformity and/or enlargement (spur) of the joint may be noted. X-rays may be ordered to evaluate the extent of the disease.
To help relieve symptoms, the surgeon may begin treating osteoarthritis with one or more non-surgical approaches such as oral medications, custom orthotic devices (shoe inserts), bracing, immobilization, steroid injections, and physical therapy. The goal of these treatments is to reduce inflammation, relieve pain and provide greater stability to the joint. In some cases, surgery may be recommended when osteoarthritis has progressed substantially or failed to improve with non-surgical treatment.
The foot and ankle surgeon will consider a number of factors when selecting the procedure best suited to the patient’s condition and lifestyle. Surgery may be the only option available in advanced cases, and its goal is to decrease pain and improve function. Non-surgical treatments and surgery can greatly improve the quality of life in patients with osteoarthritis of the foot and ankle.
Dr Gilbert Huang DPM is an experienced foot and ankle surgeon who specializes in the treatment of osteoarthritis and other foot and ankle conditions. If you are experiencing symptoms of osteoarthritis of the foot or ankle, we recommend visiting Dr Huang for a consultation. He can help you determine the best course of treatment for your condition and help you get back to doing the activities you enjoy.