Rheumatoid Arthritis

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is extremely common and is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. It is one of two kinds of arthritis that are known to affect the feet. However, rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition and therefore can affect other areas of the body, such as the wrist, knees and ankles. Also, rheumatoid arthritis causes changes in the skin, eyes, blood and nerves, but this only occurs in severe or advanced cases but the initial signs are apparent in the small joints of the body, such as the hands and feet.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes the immune system to break down the tissue in the body, which can leave individuals more open to infection and disease, however, this also impacts the strength of the bone, cartilage and ligaments. Rheumatoid arthritis treatments are largely reactive to limit pain, however, if cartilage becomes too damaged, a doctor may recommend fusion procedures or surgery, such as joint sparing, to combat the symptoms and subsequent side effects of RA. 


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Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes

Rheumatoid arthritis causes an overproduction of the lining that coats the joints. This lining is called synovium and it is important that this lining exists as it is what makes joints lubricated and aids movement and mobility. For example, with no lining, it would hurt to move your joints; rheumatoid arthritis causes this lining to swell which inhibits movement as inflammation sets it. This ultimately impacts the ligaments that support the joints, which can result in a lot of common foot problems. Rheumatoid arthritis treatment cannot restore the lining of the joints to their normal elasticity and density.

The specific cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown as of yet. However, research shows that it is likely to be caused by genetics. Women are 3 times more likely to experience rheumatoid arthritis than men.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

Unlike other common inflammations of the foot, such as plantar fasciitis, RA does not affect just one joint in the foot. Many experience rheumatoid arthritis in any of the following areas;

  • Tibia
  • Fibula
  • Hindfoot
  • Midfoot
  • Forefoot
  • Toes

Rheumatoid arthritis treatments cannot combat the condition completely, but they can dramatically improve the quality of life and the range of movement by helping to manage pain. Treatments will not stop the progression of the disease, but non-surgical techniques have been proven to slow down the effects.

Specialist orthotic insoles (shoe inserts) are the most effective method for rheumatoid arthritis treatment, particularly in the early stages. This will not be able to correct the shape of your foot, but it will minimise the impact and pain caused by walking and activity putting pressure on the prominent bones in the foot.

Important things to note

Rheumatoid arthritis causes side effects that can impact your foot health. These can include painful bunions, claw toe and flat feet. It is possible to manage the pain of these side effects with over the counter anti inflammatories, but it is vital that you visit a podiatrist or doctor to ensure they are cared for properly. If improperly treated, rheumatoid arthritis side effects can make movement (even walking) too painful.

For more information about rheumatoid arthritis treatment from podiatrists and the team of foot health experts here at Foot Active, just get in touch. We will be able to advise you on how best to care for your feet.

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