Many individuals are surprised to hear that arthritis has over 100 different forms. One of the arthritic conditions, osteoarthritis, tends to be more common the rest. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists will help you recognize osteoarthritis symptoms and learn more about this arthritic condition so you can know when to see us and get the treatment you deserve.
Osteoarthritis is an arthritic condition marked by the breakdown and loss of cartilage in joints. Cartilage is the connective tissue found at the ends of the bones that make up a joint. Cartilage cushions and protects the bones when we move. If cartilage deteriorates or is lost, symptoms develop that can restrict an individual’s ability to perform daily activities with ease.
Osteoarthritis is also referred to as degenerative arthritis and it usually develops as part of the natural aging process. The most common arthritic condition, osteoarthritis affects millions of Americans. The average person refers to osteoarthritis simply as “arthritis,” even though there are actually many different forms of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is typically considered to be an “overuse” or "wear and tear” disease because cartilage in the joint tends to wear down over time and with repeated stress and use. As the cartilage breaks down and becomes thinner, bones lose their cushioning and protective covering and eventually rub together, which causes inflammation and pain in the joint.
A trauma injury can also result in osteoarthritis, although it will take many months or even years after the injury for the condition to appear. As an example, osteoarthritis that develops in the big toe is often caused by jamming the toe or dropping something heavy on the joint.
Sometimes osteoarthritis is the result of abnormalities in foot structure, such as high arches or flat feet. High arches are rigid and lack mobility, which causes a jamming of joints that leads to an increased risk of arthritis. Flat feet cause less stability in the ligaments, which then results in excessive strain being placed on the joints. This can also cause arthritis.
Individuals who have osteoarthritis in the foot or ankle experience one or more of the following:
- Pain and stiffness in a joint.
- Swelling in or near the affected joint.
- Difficulty bending the joint or walking.
These can be experienced in varying levels of severity. Some patients with osteoarthritis also develop a bone spur at the affected joint. Shoe pressure can lead to pain at the site of a bone spur, and in some cases calluses or blisters will form over its surface. Bone spurs can further limit the movement of the affected joint.
To help relieve symptoms, we may begin treating the condition with one or more of the following nonsurgical approaches:
- Oral medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can be quite helpful in reducing the inflammation and pain. Sometimes a prescription for a steroid medication is necessary to sufficiently reduce symptoms.
- Orthotic devices. Custom orthotic devices are typically prescribed to provide support, improve the foot's mechanics, or give.
- Bracing, which curbs motion and supports the affected joint, might reduce pain while walking and prevent further issues.
- Steroid injections. Steroid injections are sometimes done to the affected joint to deliver anti-inflammatory medication.
- Physical therapy. Exercises to strengthen the muscles, especially when the osteoarthritis occurs in the ankle, may lead to greater stability and prevent injury that could worsen the condition.
When osteoarthritis fails to improve with conservative care, we may recommend surgery. In some advanced cases, surgery is the only option. The goal of surgery is to improve function and decrease pain. Together, we will consider a number of factors when selecting the procedure best suited to your condition and desired outcome.
Are You Looking for Foot Care in Austin, TX?
If you are looking for foot care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.