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What is Arthritis and How Does it Affect The Feet?

Arthritis is a condition where joints in the body become inflamed, which leads to pain. Monoarthritis is when the condition affects just one joint, while oligoarthritis is the name given for a condition that affects multiple joints.

There have been over 100 different types of arthritis identified so far, with more expected to be identified in the future. What causes arthritis will usually depend on the kind of arthritis a person has. Rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by an autoimmune problem for example, while osteoarthritis can be caused by gradual wear-and-tear while aging. Other forms of arthritis can be caused by genetic factors, viral or bacterial infections, and metabolic issues.


Because they are used so often, people tend to associate the hands with arthritis, but there are a lot of other body parts that are badly affected by the condition. The foot and ankle contain 26 bones and 33 joints between them, making them a hotspot for arthritis-related issues. The three main types of arthritis that affect the foot are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis.


Rheumatoid arthritis usually begins around the foot and ankle region, but can work its way to other joints in the body. It works symmetrically, meaning the corresponding joints on each side of the body will be affected around the same time. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the synovium, a thin layer that lubricates the joints. When attacked, the synovium swells, which can cause damage to nearby cartilage, bone, tendons, and ligaments. The exact trigger of rheumatoid arthritis is not yet known.


Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, and occurs very gradually over time. Osteoarthritis is caused by the cartilage in the joints wearing away gradually throughout the course of our lives. With this protective cartilage gone, bones rub against each other directly, which can cause painful bone spurs to form. Although genetic factors play a role in the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis, it can affect anyone, particularly as we age.


Posttraumatic arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis in that the cartilage between the joints is worn away. What distinguishes posttraumatic arthritis from osteoarthritis is that it is the result of an injury to the area. However, the condition does not necessarily develop right after the injury is sustained, and can show up years later. An injured joint is 7 times more likely to develop arthritis than one that was never badly injured.


Arthritis may be a common condition, but it can also be quite a painful one. However, there are lots of different ways to address the issue. Exercises, painkillers, massages, and various home treatments are just some of the steps you can take towards managing your pain effectively. To learn more about finding what works best for you, visit our page on managing foot pain.