Pain and stiffness in the feet can happen to anyone. But when symptoms become more frequent and affect your level of physical activity, you may have arthritis. This is a condition that affects more than 50 million adults. Besides pain and stiffness, arthritis causes:
Arthritis of the foot commonly affects patients over age 60. In fact, nearly half of the population will have some level of foot arthritis, though they may not have symptoms. It can also affect athletes and younger people.
Feet, particularly the big toe joint, are prone to osteoarthritis
The most common form of foot arthritis is osteoarthritis. This occurs when the flexible, connective tissue (cartilage) around the joint breaks down. Without cartilage, the bones rub against each other, causing arthritis symptoms. This wear and tear often affects the foot and its 28 bones (both feet contain a quarter of the total bones in the entire body). The complex foot structure also has:
Osteoarthritis mostly affects the big toe, but it can also affect the middle of the foot. Along with usual arthritis symptoms, patients may have a bump on the big toe. To diagnose arthritis of the foot, your doctor will perform a physical exam. They will also ask questions like:
Depending on the results of the exam and your medical history, your doctor may order extra tests. For example, your doctor may collect blood or joint fluid samples to rule out:
Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans, to better understand the physical structure of your foot. Imaging tests can identify:
A range of treatment options provide relief
Depending on the diagnosis, there are a range of available treatment options. Conservative options like medications provide pain relief and reduce swelling or inflammation. These may include:
For more complex conditions, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Whether your symptoms are mild or advanced, UCLA Health has treatments to help you stay active and healthy. We offer 10 convenient rheumatology clinic locations. Contact us or fill out our online form to request information.