Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and swelling. One of the most commonly affected areas is the foot and ankle. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis in the foot and ankle.
Symptoms Affecting the Foot and Ankle
Foot problems caused by rheumatoid arthritis usually occur in the forefoot, near the toes. However, RA can affect any part of the foot and ankle. The most common signs and symptoms of RA-related foot problems include pain, swelling, joint stiffness, and difficulty walking. Other problems associated with RA may include rheumatoid nodules (lumps), dislocated toe joints, hammertoes, bunions, heel pain, Achilles tendon pain, flatfoot, and ankle pain.
RA is diagnosed on the basis of a clinical examination and blood tests. The foot and ankle surgeon may order x-rays or other imaging tests to further evaluate the patient’s foot and ankle problems.
While your primary doctor or rheumatologist may prescribe medication to treat RA, the foot and ankle surgeon will develop a treatment plan tailored to relieve the pain of RA-related foot problems. The treatment plan may include one or more of the following options:
Orthotic devices – The surgeon may fit the patient with custom orthotic devices to provide cushioning for rheumatoid nodules, minimize pain when walking, and give the foot much-needed support to improve its mechanics.
Accommodative shoes – These may be used to relieve pressure and pain and help the patient walk.
Aspiration of fluid – When the joints become inflamed, the surgeon may aspirate (draw out) fluid to reduce swelling and pain.
Steroid injections – Injections of anti-inflammatory medication may be applied directly to an inflamed joint or to a rheumatoid nodule.
When is Surgery Needed?
If pain and deformity in the foot caused by RA are not relieved by other treatments, the foot and ankle surgeon may recommend surgery. The surgeon will select the procedure best suited to the patient’s condition and lifestyle.
In conclusion, it’s important to consult with Dr Gilbert Huang DPM if you experience any of the symptoms of RA in your foot and ankle. Early intervention is crucial to managing the symptoms and preventing further joint damage. Remember, the treatment plan for RA-related foot problems will depend on the severity of the condition and how much it affects your daily life.