Arthritis is a condition in which the joints become inflamed, swollen, stiff, and painful. There are many different types of arthritis that can affect the joints of the feet and ankles. The two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the type of joint disease most frequently associated with aging. As we get older, wear and tear can break down the cartilage in our joints. Cartilage is important, as it lines our joints and gives them a smooth and cushioned service to move along. Without it, the joints rub against each other painfully, producing the classic symptoms of osteoarthritis such as pain, stiffness, tenderness, and a reduced range of motion. Osteoarthritis tends to get worse over time, although the severity of your symptoms may vary day to day.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy joints. This can lead to symptoms much like those of osteoarthritis - joint pain, inflammation, swelling, tenderness, and stiffness - as well as systemic autoimmune systems. Rheumatoid arthritis can flare up and then remit, leading to temporary increases or decreases in symptoms.
Since both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the joints of the feet and ankles, you should see a podiatrist if you are experiencing the aforementioned symptoms. A podiatrist can help you maintain the health of your feet, diagnose which joint condition you may be experiencing, reduce the severity of your symptoms, and improve your overall quality of life.