What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joint lining and can cause debilitating joint destruction. The foot and ankle are often severely affected.
Pain, swelling, warmth, and redness to the joints of the foot and ankle are the major initial symptoms. Most commonly the joints at the ball of the foot are affected, but rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the foot and ankle. Tendons such as the Achilles tendon can also be affected.
Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed through blood tests. To evaluate the effect of rheumatoid arthritis on the foot an ankle X-rays are usually taken initially. Sometimes an MRI or CT scan are necessary as well.
Improvements in antirheumatic medication have greatly decreased the severity of pathology seen in the foot and ankle as a whole. Preventing progression of foot and ankle deformity rely on close follow up with your rheumatologist.
Non-surgical treatments that can be offered by a foot and ankle specialist include:
- Orthotic devices- Insoles that help restore foot mechanics and rebalance the foot. They are especially helpful in rheumatoid arthritis as they can be modified to take pressure off of painful joints or rheumatoid nodules.
- Bracing- Ankle braces that limit motion and pain can be helpful when rheumatoid arthritis affects the ankle joint.
- Steroid injections- Injection of a steroid can be very effective at decreasing inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis.
When severe deformity occurs and conservative treatments fail to relieve pain, surgical treatment can be considered. Coordination with your rheumatologist is important in terms of managing medications during the surgical period. The surgical treatment and recovery period is largely dependent on the joints affected and the deformity present.
If you suffer from foot or ankle pain due to rheumatoid arthritis we encourage you to schedule an evaluation today.