Arthritis refers to forms of joint inflammation. A podiatrist will be able to adapt your existing footwear with orthoses or other appliances that fit into your shoes and help redistribute pressure away from the affected joints.
Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the cartilage of a joint becomes damaged. Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue that does not contain blood vessels and as a result it grows and repairs slowly. When the cartilage deteriorates, the bone underneath can thicken, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue that does not contain blood vessels and as a result it grows and repairs slowly.
Although the exact cause of OA is unknown, it is regarded as a result of ‘wear and tear’ and is uncommon before the age of 40. According to the Arthritis Research Campaign, it is probably due to the fact that as we age, we tend to put on weight thereby putting more pressure on our joints, our muscles become weaker and our body loses its ability to heal itself.
When OA occurs in younger people, it is usually because the joint cartilage has been damaged through injury, such as a sprain or fracture or a bacterial or viral infection. Overuse of a particular joint as is common in farmers (hips), plumbers (knees) and footballers (knees and ankles) is another cause. The Arthritis Research Campaign estimates that 8 million Britons are affected by Osteoarthritis, but only 1 million seek treatment.
In severe cases, the cartilage can deteriorate to the extent that the bones rub together. This can make it difficult to move the affected joint at all. Symptoms vary from person to person. Some people may have OA without experiencing many symptoms at all. OA is an unstable condition. It does not always deteriorate and any rate of progression is unpredictable.
OA can affect any of the 33 joints in the feet but mostly affects the joints at the base of the big toes. This joint is due to the pressures of walking, particularly if you over-pronate, whereby the foot rolls in excessively as you walk. Initially it may present as an ache in the affected joint that gets worse on use. It may progress to the stage where the pain is constant. In severe cases the joint may seize completely, a condition known as hallux rigidus which makes walking difficult. Pain can be increased through inappropriate footwear and some people link their pain to weather conditions.
If you are worried that you have OA, you should see your GP or a Podiatrist. The early you are diagnosed, the more effective any treatment will be.