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.

Rheumatoid Arthritis FAQs

What are the causes of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, in which your immune system sends antibodies to your joints, where they attack the surrounding tissues. Scientists aren’t yet certain why the body does this, but your risk for developing RA can be increased due to your genetics, hormones, or whether you’re a smoker.

How serious is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can be a serious condition when left unattended. If you think you have the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, you should see your GP for diagnosis and to create a treatment plan.

How do you treat rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated with a number of drugs, which include steroids, JAK inhibitors, biological treatments and DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs).

Rheumatoid arthritis treatments may be used in tandem with physical therapy, which can help strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility in your joints.

How can I relieve the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis?

One of the key ways to relieve foot pain caused by RA is by finding insoles which provide the support you need. Orthotics can help bring your body into alignment by correcting issues like over-pronation which increase pressure, and pain.

There are many other ways you can try relieving pain at home, from burning lemongrass essential oils, to common pain medications like ibuprofen, and simply trying to make the space for an afternoon nap. Try testing out a variety of at-home remedies to see what works for you.

Will insoles for rheumatoid arthritis really help me?

Emerging research has indicated that orthotic insoles for rheumatoid arthritis can help reduce pain and slow its progression. Insoles can help relieve pressure on your feet, and minimise any pain caused by everyday activities.

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