Some individuals are surprised to find out that arthritis is not a single condition, and are further amazed to hear that there are actually over 100 different arthritic conditions. Not all of those forms of arthritis are equally as common, though. One of the more common ones that we treat here at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). If you suffer from painful symptoms that accompany this condition, our expert foot doctors will provide the care you need.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder wherein certain cells of the immune system malfunction and attack healthy joints. This leads to inflammation in the synovium (lining) of joints, particularly those found in the hands and feet. There are several signs of inflammation, including swelling, redness, pain, and even a warm sensation experienced around affected joints.
For some patients, chronic inflammation leads to damage in the bones and cartilage that form the respective joints. The serious damage caused by this disorder can cause permanent joint deformity, disability, and destruction.
When the affected joints are inflamed from the condition, the joint lining becomes thick and produces an excess of joint fluid. This excessive fluid output, combined with inflammatory chemicals released by the immune system, is responsible for the damage and swelling in the cartilage and bones of the affected joint.
Symptoms Affecting the Foot and Ankle
Foot problems from RA are most commonly found in the forefoot, although the condition can certainly also affect other areas in the foot and/or ankle. The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis-related foot problems include abnormal or deformed appearance of joints, pain, joint stiffness, swelling, and difficulty with walking.
Deformities and conditions associated with Rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Heel pain
- Dislocated toe joints
- Achilles tendon pain
- Ankle pain
- Rheumatoid nodules (lumps), which cause pain when they rub against shoes or, if they appear on the bottom of the foot, pain when walking
Rheumatoid arthritis is typically diagnosed on the basis of a clinical examination as well as blood tests. To further evaluate your foot and ankle problems, our doctors may order x-rays and/or other imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan.
Treatment by Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
While treatment of RA tends to focus on medication prescribed by your primary doctor or rheumatologist, our doctors will develop a treatment plan aimed at relieving the painful symptoms experienced in the lower limbs. The plan we prepare for you may include any of the following options:
- Orthotic devices. Our doctor often will fit you with custom orthotic devices to minimize pain when walking, give needed support to improve the foot's mechanics, and provide cushioning for rheumatoid nodules.
- Accommodative shoes. These are used to relieve pain and pressure, and assist with walking.
- Aspiration of fluid. When inflammation flares up in a joint, we may extract fluid to reduce the swelling and pain.
- Steroid injections. Injections of anti-inflammatory medication might be applied directly to a rheumatoid nodule or provide cushioning for rheumatoid nodules.
When is Surgery Needed?
When rheumatoid arthritis produces pain and deformity in the foot that is not effectively relieved through other treatments, surgery may be required. Our podiatric foot and ankle surgeons will select the procedure best suited to your condition and lifestyle.
Are You Looking for a Foot Care Doctor 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.