Years ago, arthritis was considered an inherent part of the aging process and a signal to a patient that it’s time to slow down, but not so anymore. Recent research and clinical findings show that there is much more to life for arthritis patients than the traditional recommendation of bed rest and drug therapy.
What Is Arthritis?
The word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation” and is often used in reference to rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases include more than 100 conditions, including gout, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and many more. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a rheumatic disease, affecting about 1 percent of the population. Although rheumatoid arthritis often begins in middle age and is more frequent in the older generation, it can also start at a young age.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. Several features distinguish it from other kinds of arthritis:
- Tender, warm, and swollen joints.
- Fatigue, sometimes fever, and a general sense of not feeling well.
- Pain and stiffness lasts for more than 30 minutes after a long rest.
- The condition is symmetrical. If one foot is affected, the other one is, too.
- The wrist and finger joints closest to the hand are most frequently affected. Neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, ankle, and feet joints can also be affected.
- The disease can last for years and can affect other parts of the body, not only the joints.
There are many things a podiatrist can do to help people with arthritis including:
- Assessment of the feet and advice about strategies for managing the condition.
- Advice about the types of shoes most suitable to the activity and the foot shape.
- Removal or reduction of the hard skin that may develop on toes or under the foot as a result of joint changes. They can also use different methods to protect the areas and prevent recurrence.
- Treating nails which have become thickened and difficult to cut.
- Prescription of orthoses or shoe inserts. As part of a consultation the podiatrist will assess the person’s feet and way of walking and prescribe the orthoses most appropriate for the type of problem the person has.
You are often told you must live with arthritis, but that does not mean that you have to stop living. You should take an active part in your treatment. Seek treatment for arthritis as early as possible to help control pain and reduce damage to joints. Remember, if you have questions about the need for a test, or the risks or benefits of your treatment, ask your Podiatrist. Even with the best of treatment, arthritis of the foot and ankle may continue to cause you pain or changes in your activities. However, proper diagnosis and treatment will help to minimise these limitations and allow you to lead a productive, active lifestyle.