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Pain in Your Foot or Ankle? It Could Be Arthritis


SPONSORED CONTENT -- (StatePoint) Arthritis in the feet and ankles can produce swelling and pain, deformity, loss of joint function and loss of mobility. Whereas previous generations had to accept this as a normal part of aging, an explosion of new therapies and surgical treatments is offering patients today both hope and relief. For best results however, foot and ankle surgeons urge early intervention.

“When it comes to arthritis, it’s important not to tough out symptoms or bear the pain,” says Danielle Butto, DPM, FACFAS, a foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). “Earlier treatment is not just about alleviating symptoms sooner. In many cases, we can even slow the progression of the symptoms, and use less invasive procedures to treat the condition than we would otherwise.”

Understanding the early warning signs of arthritis, the progression of different forms of the disease and the new treatments available are important for getting the proper treatment and managing your symptoms.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition characterized by the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints.

One common area where osteoarthritis occurs is the big toe. The big toe makes it possible for you to walk and run upright, absorbing forces equal to nearly twice your body weight when walking. With all it endures, it’s no surprise that overuse can erode cartilage, causing serious pain and even physical deformities. Nevertheless, many people confuse big toe arthritis, also known as hallux rigidus, with bunions.

Early signs of hallux rigidus include pain and stiffness during use, or during cold, damp weather, difficulty with activities like running and squatting, and swelling and inflammation around the joint. Additional symptoms may develop over time, including pain during rest, bone spurs, limping, and dull pain in the hip, knee or lower back due to changes in gait.

If you notice any of these symptoms, see a foot and ankle surgeon. Conservative treatments like shoe modifications, orthotic devices and physical therapy, may prevent or postpone the need for surgery. If you have mid- to end-stage arthritis in your foot or ankle, you may require next steps, such as ground-breaking cartilage regeneration treatment, implant surgery or the surgical removal of damaged cartilage and spurs, all of which have quick recovery periods.

“People with this disorder tend to suffer much longer than they need to,” says Dr. Butto. “They’re often pleasantly surprised when they find out their problem can be fixed.”

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease in which certain cells of the immune system malfunction and attack healthy joints. Foot problems caused by RA commonly occur in the ball of the foot near the toes, although RA can also affect other areas of the foot and ankle. The most common signs and symptoms are pain, swelling, joint stiffness and difficulty walking, as well as a range of deformities, including rheumatoid nodules, dislocated toe joints, hammertoes, bunions, heel pain, Achilles tendon pain and flatfoot ankle pain.

As part of a team that includes a primary doctor or rheumatologist, your foot and ankle surgeon will develop a treatment plan aimed at relieving associated pain, which may include orthotic devices, accommodative shoes, aspiration of fluid build-up and steroid injections. When RA produces foot pain and deformities not relieved through other treatments, surgery may be required.

“Listening to your body and seeing a foot and ankle surgeon are so important. With today's scientific advances, treatment can reduce pain and restore you to your previous mobility, strength and functionality,” says Dr. Butto.

For more information on foot and ankle arthritis or to find a foot and ankle surgeon near you, visit, the patient education website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

Photo Credit: (c) Staras / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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