woman with foot pain

Arthritis is among the most common medical disorders in the United States. Simply stated, arthritis is an inflammation of cartilage and joints. People who are diagnosed with arthritis have extra fluid in their joints, which can cause discomfort and pain.

While joints anywhere in the body can be affected by arthritis, hands and feet are the most vulnerable. There’s a reason for that, too—your feet, for instance, have 33 different joints. And because you spend much of the day standing upright, there’s no way to avoid all of your body weight bearing down on them.

Who’s at Risk for Arthritis

Anyone can develop arthritis at any age. However, certain people are more likely to develop arthritis than others. They include:

  • Older adults, especially those over 50
  • People who’ve sustained serious or repetitive injuries, especially injuries that were never properly treated
  • Drug use, illegal and not
  • Anyone who has had certain viral or bacterial infections, like Lyme disease
  • Genetically-inherited diseases and disorders

Remember, though: arthritis is a blanket term. It can exist on its own or alongside a great many disorders.

Different Kinds of Arthritis

The term arthritis refers not to a single condition but to a set of closely related conditions, all characterized by the inflammation of cartilage and joints. The most common forms are:

  • Osteoarthritis. The most prevalent form in the United States, osteoarthritis is sometimes caused by an injury, and its onset is often slow.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. This may occur suddenly and be physically debilitating. R.A. often affects numerous joints in different places and may be complicated by additional physiological symptoms, like fatigue and unexpected weight loss.
  • Gout. Caused by a buildup of acid in the joints, gout can’t always be felt, but when it is, it is often extremely painful.
  • Psoriatic arthritis. When the skin condition psoriasis spreads to or affects your joints, you have psoriatic arthritis.
  • Traumatic arthritis. Injury to a joint can lead to chronic arthritis.

Preventing and Treating Arthritis

You may wonder whether it’s possible to prevent arthritis in your feet or elsewhere. Unfortunately, many types of arthritis are influenced by your genetics or your environment, so there’s little you can do. However, you can adopt certain strategies to either mitigate arthritis or prevent injury-related arthritis from developing. You can:

  • Seek medical attention for any big injuries, blows, or fractures, especially those that occur on or near a joint
  • Make an appointment with your podiatrist if old athletic wounds are beginning to bother you later in life
  • Talk about orthotics or other custom footwear with your podiatrist, who might be able to design a personalized piece that takes the pressure off vulnerable joints in your feet

The best treatment when it comes to arthritis is prevention—and while you can’t always prevent arthritis, you can ward off some of its more painful presentations by paying close attention to your feet and lifestyle.

Pay Close Attention to Your Feet

Don’t ignore sudden changes: if you’re struggling to fit into your shoes, for instance, you may have swollen joints. Similarly, abrupt conditions like painful hammertoes, heel pain, or stubby digits may have a perfectly ordinary explanation, but they could also indicate you’re developing arthritis. Left untreated, some of these conditions may lead to later arthritic disruption.

If you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, or suspect you may have it, take it easy on your feet: don’t do high-impact exercise unless your podiatrist has said it’s okay and avoid shoes that put undue pressure on your bones, like high heels and narrow flats.

When to See a Podiatrist

If your arthritis isn’t something you can manage alone, or the pain has made daily life unbearable, talk to your podiatrist. They can help:

  • Order, schedule, and organize physical therapy sessions
  • Create or order custom-fit orthotics and braces
  • Prescribe medication to resolve or alleviate pain

Your podiatrist is a foot expert: in many cases, he or she will work with you to holistically address your arthritis. That means your podiatrist will not only provide practical medical solutions but will also create a strategy based on your individual lifestyle and health. In certain cases, your podiatrist may be able to help you beat back the brunt of arthritis-related pain and discomfort. Gout, for instance, has significantly more treatment options than some other forms of the disorder.

Let Us Help You Alleviate Your Arthritis

If arthritis is causing pain in your feet, or if you suspect an old injury may come back to haunt you, don’t wait until your arthritis has progressed to its next stage—call or contact us online today. We treat our patients like family, and we’ll get you in the door and checked out as soon as we possibly can.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.