What is rheumatoid arthritis?
There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be the most serious. This disease causes immune system cells to attack healthy tissues in your joints, leading to inflammation and pain.
This complex disease may affect over a dozen small joints throughout your body, including the ankles, forefoot, and fingers. Chronic, or persistent, inflammation in these joints may lead to long-term damage, deformity, and disability.
RA is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time, and typically advances through these three stages:
This first stage causes swelling in the lining of the affected joint that may produce pain, warmth, redness, and stiffness.
This stage involves rapid cell growth that causes the lining of the affected joints to thicken.
The third stage involves the destruction of bone and cartilage within the joint as inflamed cells release digestive enzymes that break down these tissues. The joint may begin to lose shape and alignment at this stage, resulting in increased pain and loss of mobility.
How does rheumatoid arthritis affect the foot and ankle?
Common symptoms of RA include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. When RA affects the foot and ankle, you may also experience these conditions:
- Rheumatoid nodules, or painful lumps
- Toe dislocations
- Heel pain
- Ankle pain
- Achilles tendon pain
Any of these conditions may increase the pain and difficulty you experience while walking or wearing shoes. Over time, RA may begin to affect other body systems, including your skin, heart, and blood vessels.
How do you diagnose and treat rheumatoid arthritis?
To diagnose RA, Dr. Kleis begins with a thorough physical exam and review of your medical history. He may also take blood tests or an X-ray to evaluate the extent of your condition.
There’s no cure for RA, but Dr. Kleis carefully develops an individualized treatment plan to reduce your risk of mobility loss and relieve painful symptoms. Depending on your needs, your RA treatment plan may include:
- Wearing accommodative shoes or orthotic devices to make walking easier
- Injections of anti-inflammatory medicines
- Low level laser treatment and acoustic wave therapy
- Exercises or physical therapy to strengthen and protect affected joints
Dr. Kleis considers every possible treatment before recommending surgery. However, if your RA causes severe pain or deformity that doesn’t improve with treatment, he discusses the best surgical procedure for your specific condition and lifestyle.
If you have symptoms of RA, call or book an appointment with Dr. Kleis online today.