Arthritis is a general term for a group of more than 100 diseases that cause the cartilage inside your joints to wear down over time. As a result, your bones rub and wear against each other. Soft tissues in your joints also may begin to wear down. After some time, the joint might not work or move the way it should.
Several types of arthritis can cause pain in your feet and ankles, including:
Osteoarthritis, or “wear-and-tear” arthritis, is the most common type. Doctors also call it degenerative joint disease or age-related arthritis. Osteoarthritis usually causes changes over many years. The foot and ankle joints where it’s most common are:
- The three joints involving your heel bone, your inner mid-foot bone, and your outer mid-foot bone
- The joint of your big toe and foot bone
- The joint where your ankle and shinbone meet
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most serious forms. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack the joint. It usually happens in the same joint on both sides of your body.
Gout happens when you have a buildup of uric acid from your diet. It’s most common in your big toe because it’s the farthest body part from your heart.
Psoriatic arthritis can happen in one or more joints, including your ankles and the ends of your toes. It may also cause toe swelling called dactylitis.
Post-traumatic arthritis happens after an injury, especially a dislocation or bone fracture. You might not notice problems for years.
Foot and Ankle Arthritis Symptoms
Symptoms of foot and ankle arthritis often include:
- Tenderness and/or pain when you touch or move the joint
- Trouble moving, walking, or putting weight on it
- Joint stiffness, warmth, or swelling
- More pain and swelling after you rest, such as sitting or sleeping
- Foot and Ankle Arthritis Diagnosis
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and do tests that might include:
- A physical exam
- MRI or CT scans
- Foot and Ankle Arthritis Treatment
Depending on your symptoms and what’s causing your arthritis, you might need one or more of these treatments:
- Steroid medications injected into your joints
- Anti-inflammatory drugs to help with swelling
- Pain relievers
- Pads or arch supports in your shoes
- Canes or braces for support
- Shoe inserts that support your ankle and foot (orthotics)
- Physical therapy
- Custom-fitted shoes