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Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Foot and Ankle

July 15, 2022

individual with ankle pain
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that affects the joints of the body. Most often, rheumatoid arthritis starts in the small joints, such as those in the hands and feet. It is extremely common for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis to experience foot or ankle pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis in the foot and ankle can be painful to the point that it limits or restricts mobility. Individuals in the Austin, TX, area who are experiencing foot and ankle pain related to rheumatoid arthritis can work with surgeons at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin to consider the best treatment options, including ankle surgery, to restore comfort and mobility.

How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect the Joints?

The joints of the body are covered with a lining, called the synovium, that lubricates the joint to allow for fluid movement. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that causes the body to attack its own cells. RA affects the joints by causing overactivity of the synovium lining, which then becomes inflamed. Over time, inflammation in the lining destroys the affected joint, as well as surrounding tissues and ligaments. The bones in the joint may also soften. RA can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including pain, joint deformities, stiffness, and limited mobility.

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are treatments that allow individuals who are suffering from RA to manage pain and maintain an active lifestyle. Non-surgical treatments for RA include medication, physical therapy, and the use of supports.

  • Medication - RA symptoms can often be managed with medication, especially when the disease is in its early stages. Medications that may be used to control RA include disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, which are designed to prevent the immune system from destroying the joints, steroid injections, which control inflammation in the joint, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, which manages pain and reduces inflammation.
  • Physical therapy - Physical therapy is often a key aspect of RA treatment. Physical therapy exercises are performed to strengthen the joint, ligaments, muscles, and tissues of the foot and ankle, so that patients can maintain mobility in the area.
  • Support use - Individuals with RA can often benefit from the use of supports, like orthotics (or shoe inserts) and ankle braces. Supports minimize strain and pressure on the joints and surrounding ligaments.

Do I Need Surgery?

Non-surgical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are effective, but the disease continues to progress and cause joint damage. Eventually, medication and physical therapy are likely to become ineffective. Most RA sufferers will require surgical treatment at some point.

The type of ankle surgery that our Austin patients need to restore comfort and mobility will depend on the degree of damage caused by RA. Some can find relief through minimally invasive surgical treatment, while others may benefit from an ankle replacement.

Contact Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin

Rheumatoid arthritis damages the joints of the foot and ankle and can significantly limit mobility. If your quality of life has been compromised by rheumatoid arthritis in the foot and ankle, the doctors at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin can help you explore treatment options. To schedule an appointment, send us a message online, or call (512) 476-2830.