Osteoarthritis or arthritis of the foot, as with other joints in the body, develops with aging and may also be a result of wear-and-tear on the joint. The cartilage on the ends of bones that cushions the joints as they move, becomes worn over time. Eventually, joints may become damaged to the point where they are swollen, inflamed and painful.
Sometimes, if a joint has been injured, even if treated properly, osteoarthritis may develop in the future. A severe sprain, torn ligament or broken bone may all contribute to the development of arthritis, long after the initial injury.
The most common symptoms of arthritis in the foot include pain and stiffness, swelling and a loss of mobility. Walking may become difficult due to soreness. X-rays of the foot may reveal changes in the spacing between bones. An MRI may show varying degrees of damage to the cartilage.
Medications are used to treat arthritis symptoms but cannot restore joint cartilage or reverse damage. Anti-inflammatory medications are commonly used to reduce pain and swelling. If anti-inflammatory medications do not control pain, steroidal injections into the joint may be used. Sometimes, physicians prescribe the use of orthotics; special pads, arch supports or other inserts for the shoe.
A physical therapy or home exercise program may also be effective. For patients who are overweight, weight loss can be very beneficial. Painful feet will be less sensitive if they have less weight to bear.
If conservative treatments are unsuccessful and the patient has great difficulty with simple activities such as walking or climbing stairs, surgery may be considered. Fortunately there are a number of surgical options available, including synthetic cartilage for arthritis of the big toe. The type of surgery depends on the type and location of the arthritis.