When patients come into our Medford, OR, podiatry practice with foot arthritis or ankle arthritis, they want fast relief. Now, when it comes to offering pain relief, there are many ways we can help. Unfortunately, we can’t cure foot or ankle osteoarthritis, but we can help slow your disease progression. We can also help improve your foot joint pain, so you can move more comfortably. And, to help you understand how and why we treat this condition, let’s take a look at the root causes of arthritis in your body. 

What is Arthritis? a woman's foot walking

Arthritis is a condition in which you develop inflammation and swelling in the cartilage and lining of your joints. That leaves you with joint pain and stiffness. Now, arthritis can develop anywhere you have joints. But, since your feet has 26 bones and 33 joints, it’s highly likely that they’ll develop osteoarthritis at some point in your life. (Especially as you get older.) 

Foot Arthritis and Ankle Arthritis: What are the Causes?

People develop arthritis for different reasons; Also, there are different types of arthritis. Now, some forms of arthritis are hereditary. (That means you’ve developed this condition because of your genes.) But other causes of arthritis include: 

•    Past foot and ankle trauma, especially when you don’t quickly and properly treat those injuries 
•    Bacterial, viral or fungal infections that are left untreated, and allowed to spread to your joints
•    Complications of irritable bowel disorders, particularly colitis
•    Autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)

Arthritis in your feet and ankles can be debilitating. Since you can’t keep weight off of arthritic feet, the condition can result in reduced or lost mobility. Fortunately, with an early diagnosis and proper intervention, we can keep you mobile, and minimize your pain. But first, you need to come to the office for an accurate diagnosis. 

Early Stage Arthritis in Feet: What are the Symptoms? 

Because arthritis can affect the structure and function of the feet, it’s important to come into the office as soon as you notice disease symptoms. So, what are the signs of arthritis in your feet? Symptoms include: 

•    Swelling in one or more of your foot or ankle joints
•    Joint pain or tenderness that recurs or becomes chronic
•    Warm or red joints
•    Limited joint mobility 
•    Stiffness, especially early in the morning
•    Changes to your skin appearance, including growths or rashes

Can You Have Arthritis in One Foot? 

Whether you have foot arthritis or ankle arthritis, one or both sides of your body may be affected. Just remember: osteoarthritis is a progressive disease. So, while the condition may start in one foot or ankle, it’s likely to impact the other ones later on. Especially if you don’t seek prompt care from our podiatrists in Southern Oregon

Understanding the Forms of Foot Arthritis

Here in our office, we mostly see these three forms of arthritis in the foot or ankle:  

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease.  

In rare cases, an injury can trigger sudden OA. But its onset is usually gradual, setting in slowly as you age. Every year, your body’s cartilage breaks down, leaving you with joint pain and/or inflammation. OA symptoms include dull, throbbing joint pain at night. You may also experience muscle weakening or even deterioration. If you are overweight, you will have a higher risk for osteoarthritis of the feet. And that’s because carrying extra weight speeds up bone damage and cartilage deterioration.  

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

is a complex, autoimmune disease that causes systemic inflammation. We can’t cure RA, but you can enjoy periods of remission. While RA affects your joints, it can also affect their linings, leaving you with pain, swelling or even joint deformities. If RA affects your feet or ankles, you may experience dramatically reduced mobility.  


is actually a form of arthritis, but it’s caused by built up uric acid in your joints. Like RA, you may experience gout flares and remissions. Our podiatrists are often the first to diagnose this condition, since flares tend to attack your big toe joint, leaving it red, swollen and very tender to the touch. (The pain is sometimes so bad that even being touched by your lightest sheets feels excruciating.) Luckily, medications and dietary changes can help prevent future gout flares.  

What Can be Done for Arthritis in the Foot and Ankle?  woman holding ankle in pain

It’s very important that you get an early arthritis diagnosis, since we can’t reverse cartilage or bone damage once the disease progresses.  With most patients, we can diagnose ankle or foot osteoarthritis with a physical exam and medical history. The same is true of gout. But if we suspect RA is causing your foot joint pain, we may need to conduct further testing to get you an accurate diagnosis.

Unfortunately, we can’t cure most forms of arthritis. But with proper care and early intervention, we can prevent progression or achieve remission, depending on the form of foot arthritis you’re dealing with.  

When we treat foot or ankle arthritis, our main objectives are to control your inflammation. We also want to preserve or restore your joint function. Luckily, podiatrists are perfectly positioned to detect arthritis in its early stages, since the foot is frequently one of the first parts of your body that’s affected by arthritis. In fact, a developing bunion could even be an early warning sign for foot arthritis. And that’s why it’s so important to come into the office as soon as you notice any changes to your foot shape. 

Foot Arthritis: Treatment Options in Medford, OR 

We can treat arthritis in several different ways. Often, we’ll combine different treatments to relieve your pain and protect your mobility. We may suggest a course of physical therapy and low-impact exercises. Some patients may benefit from medications that relieve your arthritis symptoms, or even help to prevent disease progression. Usually, we suggest starting with ibuprofen as your first medication for foot arthritis. From there, we’ll see how you’re feeling and continue to monitor your dose and comfort levels. 

If foot or ankle arthritis has already impacted your mobility, we may also suggest foot orthotics, special braces, or different shoe choices.  In severe cases, you may decide to surgically remove damaged joints. But, if you make an appointment at the first sign of foot arthritis symptoms, we can almost always relieve your pain with less invasive treatment plans. 

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