Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often affects the joints of the feet and potentially the ankle. Often the joints will be affected symmetrically on both feet unlike osteoarthritis which only usually affects the joint on one foot and not the other. With RA the joints will narrow and dislocation may even occur. Symptoms of RA that affect the feet are pain, swelling, and later on deformity of the foot. The deformity of the foot often takes the form of deviation of the toes to the side as well as the development of hammertoes. Rheumatoid nodules may also be present on the foot. Bunions are also common in patients with RA. With ankle involvement, walking up stairs may become more difficult.
You may have heard of Rheumatoid arthritis from celebrities that have suffered with it including Lucille Ball, Sandy Koufax, and Kathleen Turner. The cause of RA is not specifically known. It is known that RA is an autoimmune disorder that affects joints of the body not just the foot, although foot involvement is often seen early. As far as risk factors, most often RA affects females over the age of 40 years old and does appear to have a genetic component. The diagnosis of RA is based on a history and physical as well as lab work that tests blood for the presence of rheumatoid factor, an autoantibody often present in those affected with the disease.
Treatment for RA will most importantly rely on anti-rheumatic medications prescribed by the primary care physician or rheumatologist. As far as foot care, orthotics and shoes can be custom made to provide ultimate support and accommodate any deformity. Rheumatoid nodules and painful joints can be treated with a steroid injection. Often surgery will be needed to correct deformity and prevent further damage. Most often the surgery is joint fusion although other there are other options.
If you are suffering with rheumatoid arthritis, please do not wait to see a podiatrist. The physicians at Atlantic Foot and Ankle Associates want to help you, so please schedule an appointment at one of our four offices conveniently located in Palm Coast, Orange City, Daytona Beach, and Port Orange.