What are the common symptons of ankle or midfoot arthritis

Patients affected by ankle or midfoot arthritis suffer from pain, stiffness, swelling or commonly all three. The pain is most often experienced when you are walking on uneven surfaces.

The damaged joints may not be able to maintain the normal shape of your foot. Consequently the arch on the inside of your foot may collapse, causing painful flat feet. The pain may be experienced with any movement in the affected joint. The swelling and the pain may be particularly severe when starting to walk after a long period of rest. Therefore, it is not uncommon for patients affected by this condition to experience these symptoms just after getting up in the morning.

Most of the time the pain from foot and ankle arthritis manifests itself gradually over an extended period of time. In less common cases, the pain can appear suddenly.
Although arthritis is often thought of as a condition affecting older people, it can occur in patients of all ages.

What causes ankle and midfoot arthritis

Arthritis is the loss of the cartilage lining the joint surface (the articular cartilage). Normally this is a soft, smooth tissue that lets the joint move freely. However, when it is damaged, the cartilage becomes rough and no longer glides. This causes pain and stiffness in the affected joint.

There are two types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is general wear and tear that develops over a long period of time, or after an injury.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the foot and ankle. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic (affecting the entire body) immune system disease. It may originate in the foot and ankle and then spreads to different parts of the body. This disease often affects parts of the body in a symmetrical way, which means that you will be likely experience the same symptoms in both feet. Although the causes of rheumatoid arthritis are not yet fully understood, a big part of it is believed to have a genetic origin. Therefore, if someone in your family is affected, you are at higher risk of suffering from the condition.

Your specialist will listen to your symptoms and examine your foot and ankle. They may organise an X-ray, which may reveal narrow joints as an indication of arthritis. CT or MRI scans can provide further information. Sometimes a diagnostic injection is used to check which joint(s) are affected.

What are the best treatments for ankle or midfoot arthritis

Although there is no definitive cure for arthritis, there are a number of useful actions that can be taken to alleviate the pain and reduce the limitations that arthritis can have on a patient’s mobility.

The stiffness and pain of arthritis in the foot can often be managed by taking anti-inflammatories and by wearing supportive footwear or a brace that can reduce the discomfort. You should also try and avoid any activities that increase the pain. If you play sports that have a high impact on the foot such as running, football or tennis, then your doctor may recommend making a switch to other activities that are kinder to the feet (such as swimming).

Losing weight may also reduce the pain, since it reduces the pressure applied through the feet.

If the pain continues then an injection of corticosteroid into the joint can relieve it. However, the pain may come back after a few months (or occasionally after just a few days).

If these nonsurgical treatments are not effective in reducing the pain and mobility problems associated with arthritis then your doctor may recommend a surgical intervention involving fusion of the affected joint(s). This may sound drastic, but it is very successful. Your arthritis will have already limited the movement in your joints, so fusing them will not make much difference in terms of stiffness. However, as the fusion will prevent any movement in the joint, it will reliably alleviate the pain.