Foot arthritis is a big problem. It comes in many forms, from gout to osteoarthritis. Heck, even psoriatic arthritis can affect your feet. But do you know how to get pain relief?
If you said no, you're not alone. Many people think they have to live with arthritis pain. And it's true, we can't cure arthritis. Still, in today's post, I'll tell you how to manage different forms of foot arthritis. Plus, I'll give you some tips that could prevent flares. Or at least delay progression.
Osteoarthritis and Your Feet
With so many bones in your feet (26 to be exact!) and 30 joints, foot arthritis is common. In fact, a Keele University study revealed one out of every six people over the age of 50 develop foot osteoarthritis. And this condition causes enough foot pain to be debilitating.
What is osteoarthritis? It's the result of inflammation in and around your joints. But cartilage damage can also cause arthritis. Until now, most foot-arthritis research focused on the joint of the big toe. After all, that's where bunions form.
But this Keele research shows that your top of foot bones (metatarsal) also suffer. And once that happens? It gets bad quickly.
In fact, lead researcher Edward Roddy says that 75% of people who develop osteoarthritis have trouble doing day-to-day tasks. That means things like housework and grocery shopping get difficult. And many even have trouble walking or standing.
But that's not all. In fact, another important bit of information came out of this study. As it turns out, the people most at risk for developing foot arthritis are women. (Most likely because ladies cause more damage to their feet. Likely by wearing high heels that triggers swelling and inflammation associated with arthritis.)
As we learn more about arthritis of the foot, we understand that we have to treat foot pain immediately. Because if we want to prevent serious health problems in our retirement years, we have to stamp out early inflammation.
This is what Professor Anthony Redmond of Arthritis Research UK explains. “If we want to keep our over-50s active and healthy we should be serious about arch or mid-foot pain.” And that applies to other forms of arthritis, too.
Gout: the Arthritis that Kills Your Toe
Gout is a form of arthritis that comes in sudden flares. Usually, your big toe is the first victim. You wake up and it's tenders red and swollen.
Unlike progressive forms of arthritis, gout flares get triggered by built up uric acid in your blood. That causes uric crystals to form, and settle in around your joints. And that's when you get inflammation and pain.
While gout hits your toe first, it can cause joint pain anywhere in your body. Luckily, it's easier to control or prevent gout flares than other forms of arthritis. Mostly because your diet plays a major role in your gout risk.
In the middle of a gout flare, I'll provide medications for immediate pain relief. (There are also medications which can prevent future flares.) But the most effective treatment involves lifestyle changes.
These include limiting your alcohol and juice intake. You should also drink lots of water, since dehydration can trigger a gout attack.
Finally, you should avoid high-protein foods that are rich in purines, which lead to uric acid build ups. And commiting to regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is important since gout and obesity often go together.
How Psoriatic Arthritis Targets Feet
Psoriatic Arthritis [PsA]is an autoimmune disease. It causes inflammatory arthritis symptom such as pain, swelling and joint inflammation. And it can take a serious toll on your feet.
With this disease, you can develop enthesis inflammation. (That's inflammation in the tissues that connect your bones to tendons or ligaments.)
Called enthesitis, this inflammation can hurt your heels and ankles. That's because it attacks your Achilles tendon and the area of your ankle that allows you to move. Up to 35% of people with PsA develop enthesitis, making it hard to walk, run or climb.
Unlike other forms of tendinitis, we have to treat this inflammation by targeting the underlying trigger. (The autoimmune disease.) So, to do that, your healthcare provider may prescribe TNF inhibitors to prevent PsA flares.
But I can also help you deal with immediate pain. Using anti-inflammatories, steroids and lots of rest, we can give you some pain relief. You may also boost your mobility with physical therapy.
PsA Foot Skin Symptoms
Psoriatic arthritis can also change the appearance of the skin on your feet. Some people with PsA develop palmoplantar psoriasis. And, with it, you develop cracked or scaly skin on the soles of your feet. Also, you could develop sores that look like blisters.
If PsA hurts the skin on your feet, relief is available. PsA drugs can help. But we can also address your sores with topical steroids or with special UV treatments.
Addressing Several Forms of Arthritis
If you have PsA, your gout risk also increases. That's because this autoimmune disease can attack your toes. Even if you don't develop gout, your toes may become very swollen (dactylitis.) Also called sausage toes, close to 50% of people with PsA end up with dactylitis.
Managing PsA is the best way to protect your feet and toes from this form of arthritis. If you have an autoimmune disease, I may also recommend preventative foot care. This could include careful nail trimming and switching to supportive footgear. If you're dealing with swelling, soaking your feet with Epsom salts and elevating them can help. But your treatment plan depends on your unique symptoms.
Managing Foot Arthritis in Houston
Here's the deal: we can treat the symptoms of some types of arthritis. And we can prevent flares or progression for other kinds. But we can't help if you stay home and suffer.
So here's what I ask you. Let Professor Redmond’s words be your personal mantra. Don't ignore a problem. Instead, schedule an appointment with me at the first sign of foot pain. That's the best way to enjoy pain-free walking for many years to come.