Column: Foot pain keeping you down? It might be arthritis


Commentary by Dr. David Sullivan and Dr. Kenneth Stumpf

Arthritis of the foot is a common condition that affects many older Americans. As people age, the joints in their feet may suffer wear and tear, leading to arthritis. The condition can be debilitating, causing pain, stiffness and difficulty walking.

In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms and treatment options for arthritis of the foot in older Americans.

Arthritis is a term that refers to inflammation of the joints. In the case of the foot, arthritis can affect the various joints that make up the complex structure of the foot. The most common types of arthritis that affect the foot are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the joints, leading to inflammation and damage.

Older Americans are particularly susceptible to arthritis of the foot because of the natural aging process. As people age, the cartilage in their joints may deteriorate, leading to arthritis. Additionally, older adults may have had a lifetime of wear and tear on their feet, contributing to the development of arthritis. Factors such as genetics, obesity, and previous foot injuries can also increase the risk of developing arthritis in the foot.

Symptoms of arthritis of the foot can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, and difficulty walking. In some cases, arthritis of the foot may cause deformities such as bunions or hammertoes. These symptoms can have a significant impact on the quality of life of older Americans, making it difficult for them to perform daily activities and maintain their independence.

Treatment for arthritis of the foot aims to reduce pain, improve function, and slow the progression of the disease. Conservative treatment options may include rest, ice, physical therapy, and supportive footwear. In more severe cases, medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids may be prescribed to help manage pain and inflammation. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace damaged joints in the foot.

Prevention is key when it comes to arthritis of the foot in older Americans. Maintaining a healthy weight, wearing supportive footwear, and staying active can help reduce the risk of developing arthritis. Regular foot care, including proper hygiene and routine check-ups with a podiatrist, can also help detect and treat arthritis early.

In conclusion, arthritis of the foot is a common condition that can affect older Americans. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for arthritis of the foot, older adults can take proactive steps to manage the condition and improve their quality of life. With proper care and attention, arthritis of the foot does not have to be a barrier to living a full and active life in older age.