Foot & Ankle Arthritis
Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Foot & Ankle Arthritis
The word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation.” It involves inflammation and swelling around any of the body’s joints and surrounding soft tissue. It can cause debilitating pain and stiffness. Not only is arthritis painful, but it may eventually lead to limited motion, loss of joint function, and deformities in the joints affected. There are 28 bones in the foot along with more than 30 joints, thus arthritis of the foot and ankle is very common. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, however the three most common include:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Post-traumatic Arthritis
- Other less common types of arthritis are:
- Psoriatic Arthritis
Symptoms of Foot & Ankle Arthritis
The symptoms of arthritis vary based on which joint is affected. However, in most cases, pain and inflammation of the joint can be expected, regardless of the type of arthritis. Pain tends to increase gradually over time, however a sudden onset may occur. Other symptoms may include:
- Decreased ability to move or walk
- Stiffness in the joint
- Improved pain with inactivity
Causes of Foot & Ankle Arthritis
The cause of arthritis depends on the type.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an irritation of the joint lining (the synovium). Unfortunately, foot and ankle arthritis is generally an eventual outcome for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for over 10 years.
- Post-traumatic arthritis is another type of arthritis that may be caused by a sudden or traumatic injury such as a broken bone, torn ligament, or ankle sprain. Although not immediate, these types of injuries can cause joints to become arthritic in the future, even if proper medical care was given at the time of the injury.
- Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is caused by “wear and tear” damage to joint cartilage (the soft tissue that acts as a cushion between the bones and joints) and comes with age. Osteoarthritis affects over 27 million people and is most common in people 65+.
Treatment Options for Foot & Ankle Arthritis
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Foot & Ankle Arthritis
Non-surgical treatment options may include:
- Lifestyle modifications (i.e. losing weight and increasing low-impact activities, like swimming or yoga)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) taken by mouth (i.e. Ibuprofen)
- Orthotic shoe inserts
- Foot or ankle braces
- Corticosteroid injections (anti-inflammatory medications injected into the affected joints)
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy injections
- Stem cell injections
- Physical therapy
Surgical Treatment Options for Foot & Ankle Arthritis
Foot and ankle arthritis is one of the most common treated pathologies by Dr. McAlister. His passion is ankle arthritis and he specializes in ankle joint replacement. Additional operations for arthritis that can greatly improve quality of life may include:
- Arthroscopic Surgery: Arthroscopic surgery is most beneficial in the early stages of arthritis. This surgery involves the use of an arthroscope, which is a pencil-like instrument that is inserted into the joint and projects an image onto a screen for a surgeon to view. Based on the image seen, the surgeon uses tiny forceps, knives, and/or shavers to remove any foreign tissue or bone outgrowth (spurs) present and cleans the joint. This procedure is very successful in our athletic population with low-level arthritis.
- Fusion Surgery: Fusion Surgery, also called “arthrodesis,” involves using plates and screws to fuse bones together indefinitely. This type of procedure in the foot and ankle is very reproducible and successful in the right candidate. There are some limitations in post-operative activity, but the goal of this procedure is pain relief.
- Joint Replacement Surgery: Total ankle arthroplasty or replacement is a unique procedure performed by Dr. McAlister and his team, and Dr. McAlister has specific training and specialization in ankle replacement surgery. Ankle replacements have been around since the 1970s and have evolved over time to become a very successful procedure. Typically, the arthritic joint is cut out and replaced with metal components, similar to a knee or hip. This allows for a significant reduction in pain and maintenance of motion.
Dr. McAlister is a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon and ankle arthritis expert. He can collaborate with you to determine the best treatment option for you based on your goals and lifestyle. Conservative treatment is always a first-line option and Dr. McAlister’s goal is to get you back on your feet and active again. He does have a unique passion for primary as well as revision ankle replacement cases. Dr. McAlister also is an active participant in total ankle research.